Sunday February 18, 2018

Published in Vaulter magazine, June 1, 2016

Diamara Planell

Diamara Planell after winning the silver medal at the Ibero American Athletic Championships, 2016

by Adele Correale San Miguel

When Diamara Planell Cruz vaulted the Olympic A standard on April 16, 2016, a small commonwealth in the Caribbean rejoiced.

After clearing 4.5 meters at the Mt. Sac Relays in California, Diamara (dee-ah-mar-a) became the 18th athlete to join the delegation from her native Puerto Rico, and the first woman to compete in the pole vault for the island in the Olympic Games.

A 4-time All American, Diamara will graduate from the University of Washington, Seattle this month with a degree in sociology and a minor in psychology. Her achievements though, did not come in haste.

By the time Diamara was 16 years old she had exactly one recorded mark in the vault. Pole vault was still a male only sport in Puerto Rico and while she jumped an impressive 8’6” at her first meet, her coach did not want her to continue uncontested in an event that did not score for the team. For her junior and senior years, Diamara moved to California. It was there that she picked up a pole again, found a coach, and determinedly finished her high school career with a mark of 11’6”.

She hoped to compete for a Division 1 program, specifically for Coach Pat Licari at UW. But sometimes dreams are delayed.

Diamara Planell

Diamara Planell

New to the states and the confounding college process, Diamara was unable to gain admittance to UW the first time around. She attended San Jose City College for two years where she won the California State Community College title twice. Diamara stayed focused, and in the fall of 2014, transferred to UW-Seattle. Since then, she has been the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champion for 2016, Pac-12 runner-up in 2015, and the Pac-12 champion, all while proudly competing for the Puerto Rican national team and holding the country’s record.

Diamara made this happen. This girl competes. Whether on the runway or in front of the media, Diamara is fully present. Her pole vault dreams intersected with Olympic opportunity because head games and self doubt have no place on her runway. She possesses the composed determination of a campeona, a champion. According to Coach Licari, she has that extra something when it comes to competing:

“Diamara is very talented and very competitive. She has a lot of ability and a lot of potential. She is young as a vaulter and is just starting to figure it out. She can compete at the highest level with the best women in the world. She has the drive to get there. I am excited to see what the next few years bring for her.”

Diamara will walk into the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janiero with the advantage of having been there before. She just won the silver medal in the Ibero-American Athletic Championships, a competition for athletes of Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries, that served as a test event for the Olympics.

Diamara’s life right now is dominated by meet preparation, competition, and travel. Though she wishes for more time with her family, their support is evident. You Tube has uploads of her family watching her vault and celebrating her clearances. Her mother lives full time on the island; her father is recently retired military who splits his time between Oregon and Puerto Rico; and her younger brother Derek plays football for Western Oregon.

Puerto Rico has been making headlines lately for its battered economy and multi-billion dollar deficit. To watch the news, little hope is evident. But a small group of athletes under the umbrella of FAPUR, Federacion Athletismo Puerto Rico, will showcase the best of the island’s athletes, every one of them sustained by national pride and a bone-deep, unshakeable sense of identity with their mother country. Because even in the midst of extreme crisis, los puertoriquenos manage to live, love one another, manifest their dreams, and leave a personal legacy.

Diamara is proof.

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