Irving Jahir Saladino Aranda
Saladino was born in Colón, Colón Province, Panamá. At the 2006 IAAF World Indoor Championships he finished second with a new South American indoor record of 8.29 metres. In 2006 he won five (Oslo, Rome, Zurich, Brussels, Berlin) out of six Golden League events in the same season, which earned him a total of $83,333. His only defeat was in Paris where he was second. With 8.56 metres achieved in May 2006 he became the South American record holder.
The 2006 world leader in the long jump, Saladino launched his 2007 season with the farthest leap of the year, 8.53m (−0.2 m/s wind), to capture the victory at the “Grande Prêmio Rio Caixa de Atletismo”, held in Rio de Janeiro on May 13, 2007. On 24 May 2008, Saladino achieved a new personal record. During the FBK-Games in Hengelo, Saladino jumped with his first attempt to 8.73m (+1.2 m/s wind).
He carried the flag for his native country at the opening ceremony of the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On 30 August 2007 Saladino became the World Champion in Osaka. He led with the mark of 8.30 metres from his second attempt, then improved to 8.46 m, until the penultimate jump of the contest, when he was overtaken by Andrew Howe who set as mark 8.47 m. Saladino was able to earn the gold medal on the last attempt of the contest, in which he jumped 8.57 m.
Saladino competed at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, where he made history in Central America and his country, Panama, by winning the gold medal in the long jump competition on 18 August 2008, with a jump of 8.34 meters, giving Panama their first Olympic medal since the 1948 Summer Olympics, and their first gold ever. This is also the first Olympic gold medal ever won in a men’s event by an athlete from Central America.
On 21 August 2008 after winning Olympic gold, he arrived to Panama a national hero. Government offices and public schools were closed in honor of him so that public servants were able to attend a parade through Panama City. At a welcoming ceremony, Panamanian boxing legend Roberto Durán presented the Olympic gold medal to Irving Saladino for a second time. Martin Torrijos, President of Panama, announced a decree to name a sports facility in the Villa Deportiva in Juan Díaz after Saladino and granted a check to him for 50,000 U.S. dollars. Also, Ruben Blades performed the song “Patria” (Motherland) in front of thousands of cheering Panamanians.
Saladino qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics and he was chosen to be Panama’s flag bearer. He was eliminated early after underpeforming due to injury.