[ODDS and EVENS] Cuba’s “speed queen” retains unbeatable aura at Tokyo Games


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Cuban Omara Durand Elias is one of the most consistent athletes in the world.

The proof is in the numbers. She is undefeated in major championships for the past decade and has won six gold medals in her six Paralympic events coming in September.

The “Speed ​​Queen” won her sixth gold medal by winning the women’s 400 meters final in the T12 category (for athletes with a visual impairment) with a time of 52.58 seconds and the support of her guide longtime Yuniol Kindelan Vargas on Tuesday, August 31 at the New National Stadium.

“I was very nervous before the competition but after finishing the race I am very satisfied,” the 29-year-old told reporters after the race, according to Olympics.com.

“It’s very normal [to feel nervous] whenever we are in competition. I am always thinking about how to win and I keep a positive feeling. “

This feeling remained the next day.

Durand clocked a season best time (11.70) in his 100-meter first-lap race to signal his presence as a clear favorite to defend his title at the Tokyo Paralympic Games on the evening of Thursday, September 2.

It was a vivid reminder that she is focusing more energy for her next race or competition instead of dwelling on what she has already accomplished. Which happens to be a lot.

Since 2011, the Cuban sprinter, whose visual impairment was caused by cataracts, has been a story of continued success, both at the International Paralympic Committee World Athletics Championships and at the Paralympic Games, as well as in others. competitions.

At 19, she won the 200 and 400-meter (T13) races at the 2011 World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, then triumphed in the 100 and 400 at the Paralympic Games in London the following year.

Durand had just warmed up.

She won first place medals among the 100, 200 and 400 in the T12 category (indicating a stronger visual impairment than T13) at the 2015 IPC World Championships in Doha. Her eyesight worsened further before giving birth to her daughter, Erika, in 2013.

Since then, Durand has competed exclusively in the T12 ranking.

Adding to her legend, she won the only event she competed in at the 2017 World Championships in London, the 400.

A year earlier, Durand lived up to his reputation as the fastest female Paralympic in Rio de Janeiro. She beat all her opponents in the 100, 200 and 400. She also set a world record in the 100 (11.40 seconds) which still stands. The IPC named Durand the best athlete of the 2016 Paralympic Games.

“Prepare yourself harder every day”

Success on the track is something Durand is extremely grateful for.

She doesn’t take her accomplishments for granted. Instead, she cherishes every victory.

“It’s been 10 years without losing and it’s something incredible,” she commented in an interview with Olympics.com. “It allows me to prepare myself harder every day to maintain my status. It’s always exciting and any competition gives you nerves. What I do is relax, talk with my friends [and] listen to music.”

Preparations for the Tokyo Paralympic Games included a set of challenges that were not typical for Durand.

Normally, it relies on the constant presence of its guide, including directional guidance during races. The global pandemic, however, has forced her to adjust her training regimen.

“It has been an atypical year,” Durand told the Olympic news portal, reflecting on 2020 to the present day. “COVID has arrived and changed the lives of the whole world, the Games have been suspended and a void has fallen in the world of sport. I spent several months at home, but never stopped training although without my guide. I did a lot of exercises to maintain muscle tone.

A semblance of normalcy returned, however, as Durand made adjustments and returned to working with Vargas, his guide.

“Then I returned to training with my guide,” she told Olympics.com. “I respected hygiene and social distancing measures and took all precautions, so I was able to train with my guide and we prepared very well and so far we have not been infected. “

As well as being in good physical shape, this partnership and quality training put Durand in a good mood for the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

“I feel very good physically,” she noted. “I prepared very well and I am well focused to compete to my maximum in Tokyo. I am in very good physical shape.

Everything suggests that the Cuban speed queen could extend her unbeaten streak in the major championships for several years.

Consider this streak as one of the most amazing athletic achievements that hasn’t received much attention in this century.

Author: Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here Sunday, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter ed_odeven.