The World Championship trials that get underway in Birmingham this evening gained their only world leader yesterday with the news that Yamile Aldama, the Cuban who is seeking British citizenship, will contest the triple jump.
Aldama, whose winning effort of 15.29 metres at this month's Rome Golden League event was the fourth longest ever, made a late decision to take part in a meeting that will help to heighten her profile in the country she wants to make her own.
But Ashia Hansen, who won the world indoor title in Birmingham four months ago, is recovering from the foot injury she exacerbated during her emotional victory on home territory. Hansen, who holds the world indoor record of 15.16m, hopes to compete in Paris next month.
That is something Aldama will not be able to do, despite the fact that she would be the clear favourite for the world title. Given Cuba's reluctance to sanction her switch, the 30-year-old must wait until September to be clear to compete for another country. She will then need to gain British citizenship, a process that has no clear timescale.
Aldama's coach, Frank Attoh, who once guided Hansen's fortunes, believes her prospects will be improved by taking part in domestic trials which will, as usual, be incorporated with the Amateur Athletic Association Championships.
Attoh does not believe the Cuban's application has been hindered by the fact that her Scottish husband Andrew Dodds, with whom she has a son, Amil, is serving a 15-year jail sentence for drug offences.
"The offences happened a couple of years before they met," Attoh said. "I don't see why she ought to be punished for this crime." He denied reports that Aldama was seeking a divorce, saying: "She felt shocked and betrayed when she found out, and those were the first words that come to her. But she realised that their baby wasn't a baby of convenience, and that they did love each other."
Attoh added that, again contrary to reports, Aldama was not seeking citizenship in a country with a more relaxed attitude to applications. "Yamile has no desire to move elsewhere," Attoh said. "I think competing in Birmingham will go a long way to help her. And there is also the fact that a lot of people may only have seen her jumping abroad on TV. It will be nice for her to show the British public what she is really about."
Themen's sprint events promises drama because automatic places for Paris are on offer to the first two in each event, provided they have the International Association of Athletics Federation qualifying standard.
In terms of depth, nothing matches the men's 200 metres, which will conclude the Championships on Sunday. The event involves Olympic silver medallist Darren Campbell, former Commonwealth champion Julian Golding, former European indoor and world junior champion Christian Malcolm, world indoor champion Marlon Devonish, European 100m champion Dwain Chambers, and Chris Lambert, the 22-year-old who went to the top of this season's domestic rankings with last weekend's European under-23 title win in 20.34sec.
The form of the athlete who graduated from Harvard last month has convinced Malcolm that he is the one to watch when the heats get underway tomorrow. "Chris is the man," Malcolm said. "He is consistent and very talented. He's hitting his peak and won't fear any of us."
Malcolm, Campbell and Chambers are all reported to be getting over colds this week. Devonish has struggled to reproduce the form he showed at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena four months ago. Lambert is still recovering from bruising to his heel suffered while earning a second gold medal at the European under-23s in the relay. Even the excuses look level.
Although Chambers and the home runner Mark Lewis-Francis look favourites for the first two places in the 100m, the overall sprint choices could be complicated by the presence of Campbell and Malcolm, who, like Chambers, are doubling up, and Jason Gardener, who has yet to replicate his outstanding indoor form this season.
The selectors will name the main team on Tuesday before finalising it on 11 August. A calf injury means the Olympic 800m bronze medallist Kelly Holmes will miss the Championships, as will Paula Radcliffe whose participation at Paris is in doubt after a bout of bronchitis.
In the men's 1500m, Commonwealth champion Mike East still lacks the qualifying time of 3min 34.90sec. If he fails to reach the mark, East could go forward with a slower, B qualification but that would only allow Britain one entry to the event.
Iwan Thomas and Ian Mackie fell marginally short of the 400m qualifying time of 45.55sec and need to bridge the gap to join Daniel Caines, newly mentored by Sir Steve Redgrave.Reuse content