Yulimar Rojas: What's next for the Olympic triple jump champ?

Olympic champion, two-time World gold medallist and World record holder: Venezuelan trailblazer Yulimar Rojas is far from finished and she's eyeing the 16m mark and a new discipline. 

By Ken Browne
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

History maker, multiple gold medallist, record breaker: Yulimar Rojas has come a long way from the little girl scared of storms in the makeshift family 'ranchito' in Caracas that would let the rain in.

Once, having enough to eat was the main worry and a second pair of shoes to train in was a luxury, now she's on top of the world, has lifted her family out of poverty, and is aiming at new goals.

Rojas won gold in the Tokyo 2020 triple jump setting a new world record of 15.67 metres.

"It's a dream come true... an incredible night that people will carry in their minds, in their hearts, and many people will identify with, because it isn't just me, it's the 40 million Venezuelans who lived it with me," she said.

Rojas won Venezuela's only gold medal of Tokyo 2020, the first Venezuelan to win an athletics Olympic gold medal, and the first Venezuelan woman ever to win Olympic gold.

So what's next for the 25-year-old?

New goals, new dreams and even a new discipline.

Rojas is ready to skip to a brand new beat in long jump, a discipline she's hardly even practised much before, and also has her sights set on breaking the 16m barrier in triple jump.

"I know I can go 16m" says Yulimar Rojas

Resetting the world record at 15.67m in Tokyo, Rojas now wants to go further and become the first woman ever to break the 16-metre barrier.

The Olympic champion was feted at home in Venezuela, but also in Spain where she trains with legendary coach Ivan Pedroso.

The newly crowned triple jump Olympic champion was invited to Barcelona FC's Camp Nou to show off her brand new bling and do the honorary 'Saque de Honor,' or kick-off before the game against Getafe on Sunday 29 August.

Rojas is affiliated with the Catalan giant club and said she was proud to represent Barça and Venezuela.

While in Catalonia she also spoke with local paper Sport:

"I still haven't really processed it all," she said, "the gold medal, the world record, I can't believe it. It's like I'm still in the clouds."

She had to wait five years between her Rio silver and her Tokyo gold, but knows the exact moment when she started to believe she could do it.

"Ever since Caterine (Ibargüen) beat me in Rio, from that moment on I was visualising winning gold in Tokyo," she continues to Sport. "At Rio I was a novice, in Tokyo I was much better prepared."

Now after making her Olympic dream come true, she has the 16m mark in the crosshairs.

"Many people say it's impossible for a woman to jump 16 metres, but I believe I can do it. I'm at 15.67 and getting closer, right? I know I have more to give but I'm calm, we're getting closer and that's the next target I have in mind."

"Olympic gold and the world record are mine and now I know I can go 16 metres."

Rojas to compete in Triple jump and long jump at Paris 2024?

Rojas also revealed to Sport that she wanted to compete in the long jump too at Tokyo but it wasn't possible because of the schedule.

"We planned for it but it wasn't possible because of the calendar. It's another challenge without ever forgetting that the triple is our thing."

At 1.92m with long legs and a searing sprint Rojas was born to jump.

"Jumping comes naturally to me, my long jump is good too. We'll go for it in the World Championships year, better prepared and better focused. I can jump more than 7 metres 30, it's another aim we have. I have to get better technically and keep fighting for my goals."

"Next year a lot of people are going to be surprised when they see me lining up the long jump, but I know I can go far."

After the Tokyo games Rojas was going to enter the long jump at the Lausanne Diamond League meet on 27 August, and even got to the point of registering officially for it.

But after a number of days training long jump she fit in a couple of triple sessions and jumped so well, 'better than Tokyo' according to coach Pedroso, that they erased her name from the long jump list and stuck it in the triple jump column.

The idea was to top her Tokyo world record which carries an extra financial reward in the Diamond League, but it wasn't easy with the wind whipping through the Olympic Capital.

In Switzerland she leapt 15.56m (+3.5) on her opening attempt, adding a 15.52m (+0.6) jump – further than Inessa Kravets' old world record 15.50 – to set a new Diamond League record.

Rojas then won the competition with a 15.11m "Final 3" jump, but her Tokyo WR mark stayed standing.

Yulimar Rojas: Inspiration

So what might have happened if she had taken part in the long jump instead of the triple jump?

Hard to say, but before Tokyo 2020 Rojas did take part in the long jump in La Nucia in Alicante, Spain, where officially she cleared 6.88m without any specific training.

What was much more interesting was the 7.27m jump that was chalked off because of a 2.7m/s wind assistance.

Rojas and Pedroso have set 7.30 as the latest target, and to put that into context, world champ Malaika Mihambo won the Olympic title in Tokyo with a 7.00m leap.

Never happy with just taking part, Rojas is all about taking over, and has the long jump world record in her sights too.

It's a record that's stood since 1988 when Galina Cistjakova cleared a massive 7.52m in Saint Petersburg.

Many would say that's impossible, but going from a shanty town to the top of an Olympic podium was impossible too. The 13-year-old girl who loved to dance salsa, vallenato, merengue and reggaeton grew up to take on the world and now wants to inspire a new generation.

As she told Sport, "I hope this (Her Tokyo gold medal win) will be an inspiration for many more Yulimar Rojas and that boys and girls can feel proud and see a reflection of themselves in these achievements."

A Tweet that proved that this is already happening is below, a Venezuelan grandfather tagged Rojas in a post that said:

"My granddaughter Ivana came home from school today. They asked her to choose a sport. She said athletics, why? 'Because I want to jump like Yulimar.'"

The Rojas effect is in full flow, "hugs for Ivana," she replied, before getting back on the trail of history.