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Perez can jump with joy in Athens

The ex-Pima Community College standout had to wait nearly a month to see if she made team.



Yuliana Perez can rest easy now. She’s heading for the Olympic Games.

Perez, who was born in Tucson but spent most of her life in Cuba, will compete for the United States in the triple jump.

The former Pima Community College star had to sweat out the last month while waiting to see if she had secured a permanent spot on the U.S. team after failing to finish in the top three at the U.S. Trials last month.

The official U.S. team for the Athens Games was posted yesterday. Perez and Tiombe Hurd, the reigning U.S. national champ and American record-holder, were the only women triple jumpers to make the team.

“I think she is very happy,” said John Radspinner, Perez’s coach when she competed for PCC. “I am hoping that she spent the last month working hard to get her performance back up to where it had been.”

She finished a disappointing sixth in the triple jump competition at the U.S. Trials last month with a best jump of 44 feet, 2.5 inches, which put her Olympic hopes in jeopardy.

Only the top three finishers in each event at the trials qualify for the U.S. team, provided they have achieved the Olympic qualifying standard.

Perez was still in the hunt because she and Hurd were the only Americans in the past year to reached the Olympic qualifying A-standard distance of 46-7.25. Perez won the U.S. national championship in 2003 with a personal record 46-8.25.

Shakeema Walker, who finished second at the trials behind Hurd, and Vanitta Kinard, who took third, failed during the last month to achieve the Olympic A-standard.

Perez won national titles in the triple jump in 2002 and 2003 while a student at PCC.

She attended the University of Arizona briefly, then gave up her college eligibility and moved to Fayetteville, Ark., last winter to train at the University of Arkansas. Perez had been the dominant American women’s triple jumper for most of the last two years. She competed internationally several time during that period, and has spent the past three years ranked among the top 50 triple jumpers in the world.

“I do not think there will be anybody there that she has not jumped against, at least among the world’s top jumpers,” Radspinner said. “Of the world’s top triple jumpers, see has seen them all.”

Perez is the second PCC graduate to make the 2004 U.S. team. Abdi Abdirahman, an all-American distance runner while at PCC, qualified for the team at the trials with his second-place finish in the 10,000 meters.


• Aug. 21: Qualifying rounds, 10:30 a.m. Tucson time.

• Aug. 23: Finals, 8:45 a.m.


Finch makes her pitch

The Tucson Citizen kicks off its extra coverage of the Olympics tomorrow with a profile of ex-Wildcat pitcher Jennie Finch, whose $400,000-a-year endorsement income could triple after the Games. Plus, previews of other sports.


Rivera reports from Athens

Citizen Sportswriter Steve Rivera will provide insight and analysis from the Games, including coverage of Finch and the U.S. softball team.


• Telemundo and MSNBC will show soccer today and tomorrow. The opening ceremony is Friday on NBC (7-11 p.m., tape). Olympic TV listings, Page 6C

• Updates: www.tucsoncitizen.com


Ex-Wildcat Jennie Finch

Courtesy of USA Track and Field

Former PCC star Yuliana Perez is on the U.S. Olympic team as a triple jumper.

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