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Out Olympic medalist Yulimar Rojas named World Athletics Female Athlete of the Year

Rojas seeks gold in competition, and champions LGBTQ rights in her native Venezuela.

Athletics Indoor Tour Meeting In Madrid
Yulimar Rojas, shown after breaking the world indoor triple jump record in February, was named as World Athletics’ Female Athlete of the Year for 2020
Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Venezuelan triple jumper Yulimar Rojas can say she’s had a good 2020. She broke a world record, and earlier this month, received an honor from World Athletics. The world governing body for track and field named her Female Athlete of The Year.

The pandemic disrupted sports around the world, including track and field. Yet, Rojas still managed to produce a highlight. At the World Athletic Indoor Tour meet, Rojas bounded down the runway on her final attempt and uncorked the best jump of her life at 15.43 meters (50 feet, 7 12 inches). The effort was the best indoor triple jump ever, breaking a 16-year record.

“I felt like, ‘wow, what is happening to me? Am I living in a dream?’,” Rojas told World Athletics. “Being one of the finalists was like winning for me. This is proof that dreams do become reality.”

Rojas has been among the world’s best in the triple jump since a breakthrough 2016 season, when she captured the silver at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Since then, Rojas has added two world outdoor titles, and a second world indoor championship gold medal.

Away from competition, Rojas is a proud voice for LGBTQ rights in Venezuela. An out lesbian, Rojas has been a beacon for the LGBTQ community in a country currently considering reforms such as marriage equality.

“My orientation, my sexuality has always been important to me and to my career. Since I started sports, I have always tried to fight for the ideologies and rights of women and the LGBT community,” Rojas said in an interview with El Pais in February. “It is also a leap for love and life to be respected, the desire to love and to be loved is respected, and human rights to be valued every day.”

Next year, Rojas will again return to competition. She says she’s seeking Olympic gold, and has her sights on taking down the outdoor event’s 25-year-old record of 15.50 meters (50 feet, 10 14 inches).

“My ambition is to become the first woman to jump 16 meters. It is something unimaginable in people’s minds, but I think I have the ability to do it,” Rojas declared. “I have the ambition to get there. I know my heart will take me there.”