World's best high jumper has low-profile meeting with pope

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Despite holding the world record in
the high jump, Javier Sotomayor kept his feet on the ground and didn’t try to
clear the waist-high wooden barricade between him and Pope Francis.

The now-retired 50-year old Cuban track-and-fielder was
part of a small athletic delegation from Cuba greeting the pope at the end of
his May 2 general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

The delegation included Luis Enrique Zayas, gold medalist
at the World Under-20 Championships in the high jump in 2016, and coach Barbaro Diaz

Sotomayor is the only person to ever have cleared 8 feet in the high jump with
his world record jump of 8
feet 1/2 inch (2.45 meters) set in 1993. Considered the best high jumper
of all time, he has set many records and won numerous records throughout his
nearly 20-year career. He took the gold medal in the 1992 Olympics and silver
in 2000 before retiring the next year. Cuba boycotted the 1984 and 1988 Summer
Olympic Games.

The delegation from Cuba was visiting the Vatican’s
Pontifical Council for Culture for a meeting that also included Fabrizio
Donato, captain of Italy’s national track team, and Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de
Toca, undersecretary of the culture council and member of the Vatican’s own
amateur co-ed track club, “Athletica Vaticana.”

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