‘My heart is broken’: Olympic triple jump champion Rojas out of Paris Games

Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas announced on April 12, 2024 that she will miss the Paris 2024 Olympic Games after suffering an injury to her left Achilles tendon. AFP

Reigning Olympic women’s triple jump champion Yulimar Rojas said on Friday she had injured her Achilles tendon and will miss the Paris Games.

The 28-year-old Venezuelan said she had torn her Achilles during a training jump in Spain and had undergone surgery in Madrid on Thursday.

“My heart is broken and I want to say sorry that I will not be able to take part in Paris 2024,” said Rojas in a statement on her social media accounts.

In the statement, accompanied by a picture of her in a hospital bed, Rojas said that as she landed from the training jump, “I felt an intense pain, which has been diagnosed as an injury to the left Achilles tendon”.

Rojas won the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and then took the Olympic title at the Covid-delayed Tokyo Games in 2021.

She dramatically won the fourth of her outdoor world titles in Budapest last year with her last-round leap, moving from eighth place to gold medal position with a winning jump of 15.08m.

Rojas is also the world record holder in the event with a jump of 15.74m in 2022.

She was voted the World Athlete of the Year for women’s field events last year and would have been a hot favourite to retain her Olympic title in Paris.

“Today I feel very emotionally affected about not being able to defend my Olympic title… but I must stop, take that in, recover and return with a lot of strength to continue to fly together,” Rojas said in a message to her fans.

The Paris Olympics take place from July 26 to August 11.

In Venezuela, Rojas is a national heroine.

Her face appears on huge frescoes, photos adorn many walls and commercials featuring the star athlete on television are a common feature.

She is the only woman and the only track and field athlete to win Olympic gold for Venezuela, which has three male champions in other sports.

Among them, Ruben Limardo, a fencing gold medallist in London in 2012, said Rojas remains an inspiration to the country ahead of the Paris Olympics.

“Yuli, every step we take, we will do so in thinking that you are with us in body, soul and heart. Warrior, you can rise and fly again,” he said.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro added: “All my love, my solidarity, my support. We love you and we know your commitment and your discipline. You are a warrior of life, an example for young people.”

Based in Spain, Rojas emerged from the deprived neighborhoods of Puerto La Cruz, around 300km from capital city, Caracas.

“We raised Yuli in this humble universe with a lot of problems. She rose, rose, rose…”, proudly remembered her mother Yuleisi Rodriguez, interviewed by AFP before the Tokyo Games.

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