Javier Sotomayor, The Best High Jumper In The World.
Imagine investing your life into working out in order to chase the high jump world record. Year-after-year, you practice. Weightlifting. Coaching. Running. Sweat and pain. Day-after-day until you become a master.
Your country loves you. You’re an expert at high jumping and can propel your body higher than anyone else in your country.Embed from Getty Images
It’s the early 1990s. The media and fans coddle you. Your face is on TV and billboards. You feel important as you enter and join international events.Embed from Getty Images
Showtime. You warm-up, nervous and eager. You and others have high expectations.
Suddenly, you see him. El Principe de las Alturas (The Prince of Heights)! Submissiveness enters your soul because he’s unbeatable. The air comes out of your sails.
Then, you watch him to learn his tendencies and routines. Maybe you can beat him today?
Then, he jumps and you realize he will win again.
El Principe de las Alturas’ name is Javier Sotomayor and for 25 years, the men’s high jump world record has been his!
Childhood And Early Years.
Born in Limonar, Cuba in 1967, Sotomayor started life excelling at sports but as a 10-year-old, he was afraid of heights.
Embracing his growing spurts at an early age, Sotomayor is recognized as a basketball prospect but his attention turns quickly to the high jump.
It is here that he meets his lifelong coach, José Godoy.
Godoy started coaching in the 1950s. In fact, he spent time learning how to coach the high jump in the USSR. Godoy helped Sotomayor achieve youth and adult world records. Additionally, Godoy’s motto was ‘first you had to train the man and then the athlete’.
First World Record High Jump.
Sotomayor explodes as a superstar high jumper at a young age. As a 16yr old, he achieves 2.33m and says “that’s where my career started”. Similarly, he goes on to achieve the junior high jump wr of 2.36m as a 19yr old. That record still stands today as well.
Personal Life And Family.
Sotomayor lists his competitive stats as 6’5″ tall and 181lbs. Sotomayor’s size is heavier than most high jumpers which helps his intimidation level.
Sotomayor is engaged to Amaya Gonzales who shares his private and professional life. He also has four sons. Notably, one of his sons, Javier Sotomayor Garcia has also competed in the high jump.
Competition And Achievements.
Sotomayor exploded onto the high jump scene at an early age. His 2m achievement as a 14yr old is difficult but not awe-inspiring. His 2.33m jump in Havana as a 16yr old is stellar! Most 16yr old jumpers can barely achieve 6′. By way of example, imagine competing as a 16yr old and struggling to clear 6′. Then, Sotomayor shows up and sails over 7’8″ at the same age.
Second, Third, and Fourth High Jump World Records.
Patrick Sjoberg owned the world’s highest jump in 1988 at 2.42m. Rather, Sotomayor replaced Sjoberg’s high jump world record in Salamanca, Spain with a leap of 2.43m. Furthermore, 2.43m is now his second world record.
Only one other man has achieved 2.43m in history, Mutaz Essa Barshim. In addition, Sotomayor’s name will remain on the high jump world record until today.
1989 is a good year for Sotomayor. This is because he set’s two more high jump world records. First, Sotomayor sets the current world indoor record of 2.43m (7 ft 11.67 in) on March 4, 1989, in Budapest.
Later in the year, Sotomayor resets the high jump world record in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Now, he is the only human to ever clear 8′.
After missing two Olympic games because of Cuba’s boycotts, Sotomayor competed in his first Olympics in 1992.
With a heavy heart from the passing of his coach, he dedicated his performance to him. In fact, upon winning the Gold in Barcelona in 1992, and as he remembered Godoy’s death in 1990, Sotomayor said:
I lost my teacher, my friend, my father. I made an oath to myself, swallowing my tears, that in Barcelona I would win the Gold that he so wanted for me!
As a matter of fact, Sotomayor won gold in Barcelona!
Final And Current High Jump World Record.
It was a warm evening in Salamanca, Spain in 1993. Sotomayor set the bar to 2.45m.
In his waggle area, he doubled over from the pressure and concentration. Standing back up, he glares at the daunting crossbar. He places his hands on his hips, concentrating again and envisioning his jump.
Finally, he watches an imaginary self running the approach, jumping, and clearing the bar – in his mind. Stomping his takeoff foot. He straightens his uniform, staring intently down his runway. Clad in all white and with the crowd clapping, he backpedals into his waggle. Then, he is off!
Long, bounding strides. Massive speed. Sotomayor hits the curve and has to hold on to the ground with his feet from the tremendous force. He hits the takeoff with his muscles exploding from the force of his blocking. He’s airborne.
Over the bar and landing on his neck. His legs and feet continue on his backward somersault. When his feet hit the mat, he explodes into a sprint under the bar and to his friend’s hugs.
Javier Sotomayor resets his own men’s high jump world record at 2.45m (8’½”) and it still stands today!
Retirement And Today.
Today, Sotomayor enjoys his celebrity and explores music and entrepreneurialship while serving as the Vice President of the Cuban Athletics Federation. Furthermore, Sotomayor says this about his retirement activities:
First of all, I founded a salsa band called Salsa Mayor, which I managed for five years. Now, thanks to its new manager, Maykel Blanco, it’s one of the best groups in Cuba.
Additionally, I also opened a bar, which will be renamed the 245 this summer, when I reopen it with a new partner. But mostly, I have returned to sport, and athletics in particular, as Vice-President of the Cuban Athletics Federation. In short, I am in charge of approving training plans and the selection of talented youngsters. We have many future stars at the moment, with discus throwers and pole vaulters. We are training for the next Pan-American games.
Finally, when do you think Sotomayor’s high jump world record will fall, if at all?