Athletics: Aldama chooses to compete for Sudan

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The Independent Online

Yamile Aldama, who produced the third best triple jump of all time last season but had no country to compete for at the World Championships, has been cleared to take part in the Olympics for Sudan.

The 31-year-old former Cuban has been desperate to establish a new nationality in time to compete in what is likely to be her last Olympics, and having tried Britain - where she has lived and trained for the past two years - Italy and the Czech Republic, she has finally succeeded by representing a country with a negligible presence in world athletics. That is about to change.

The news came as a surprise to Britain's world indoor record-holder, Ashia Hansen, who now knows she is likely to face the strongest possible opposition when she competes in Athens this summer.

Aldama, who represented Cuba at the last Olympics, had been backed by UK Athletics in her quest for a British passport.

But without Home Office intervention, she was not due to gain British citizenship until 4 November this year, the third anniversary of her marriage to the Scotsman Andrew Dodds, who was jailed for 15 years last May for heroin trafficking.

Aldama finished last year at the top of the world rankings with 15.29m. A fortnight after that performance in Rome, she won the AAA title in Birmingham, equalling the British all-comers' record of 14.98m.

She said then that she had offered the Cuban athletics federation her winnings if they would allow her to compete at that summer's World Championships, but she had received no response. But under the International Association of Athletics Federations' rule 5.2c, Aldama became a free agent on 24 September last year, three years to the day since she last represented Cuba. Thereafter it has been a case of seeking a country where she could obtain a passport quickly.

Hansen is about to return to competition after recovering from the injury she aggravated in winning the world indoor title at Birmingham last March.

On being told that Aldama was competing for Sudan, her coach, Aston Moore, replied: "Sudan? That is a surprise. It's not the name we expected, although we were expecting that Aldama would get to Athens representing someone, so it's not too much of a shock in that way. Now I suppose if everyone is healthy, we are going to be able to say that Athens is going to be a true competition."