This article was originally published in February 2022 as part of a project to celebrate the legacy and valuable contribution of Afro-Latino athletes for Black History Month. Today, we repost it following the same purpose.
The sports world is filled with stories of triumph and overcoming against all odds as is that of Colombian athlete Caterine Ibargüen.
Despite being born into a poor family in the mid-80s when her country was going through difficult times in the fight against drug trafficking, Ibargüen found her best ally in sports.
Although the native of Apartadó, Antioquia, reaped her professional successes in the triple jump, her first steps were not in this discipline but in volleyball.
Seeing Caterine’s natural leaping abilities, her then coach Wilder Zapata chose to guide her to the long jump in school competitions when she was just an adolescent.
But Zapata himself knew that he was not the right one to develop Caterine’s talent, so he convinced her grandmother to have the talented jumper move to Medellin in 1996 to the High-Performance Center “Villa Deportiva” under the tutelage of Cuban Jorge Luis Alfaro.
Caterine Ibargüen and her brilliant career
By June 1999 at 15, Caterine Ibargüen reaped her first international medal: bronze in the South American Athletics Championships after registering a mark of 1.76 meters in high jump.
From that moment on, the successes of the Colombian triplist cascaded during various competitions such as the South American, Central American and Caribbean Games, Pan American Games, the World Championships, and the Olympic Games.
Her most outstanding victories are Golds at the Moscow 2013 and Beijing 2015 World Championships, as well as Silver at London 2017, with Bronze medals in South Korea 2011 and Doha 2019. In the Olympic Games, silver in London 2012, Gold in Rio 2016, and being the flag bearer of Colombia at the opening of Tokyo 2020 stand out.
Always displaying abundant joy and charismatic by nature, Caterine always conquered the stands from the moment she went out to warm up before any competition. She is also the only Colombian for who brings her country to a halt – almost like the Football Team – to see her perform.
In 2018 she was chosen as the Athlete of the Year by the International Association of Athletics Federations, an appointment that no other Latina athlete has received since 1989 when Cuban Ana Fidelia Quirós won the recognition.
After finishing 10th at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Caterine Ibargüen decided to end her Olympic career, but the spirit that led her to so many victories in athletics, continues to propel her to new horizons: now it’s politics, where she will seek to reach the Senate as a representative of the Partido U (U Party).
Caterine Ibargüen is an example of how despite adversity, the desire to rise above and triumph can prevail. We recognize her career as a brilliant Latina athlete during Black History Month.