When the great melting pot of the Great Britain women's track and field team - the novices and the veterans, the princesses and the paupers - come to launch their bid for promotion from the First League division of the European Cup here in central Portugal this afternoon, it will fall to an 18-year-old schoolgirl to lead the way.
Yasmine Regis, a student at West London Academy in Northolt, Middlesex, will be making her debut on the international stage when she competes in the opening event, the triple jump. Not that anyone is likely to be urging her to break a leg.
When the British women were relegated from the Super League section in Bydgoszcz twelve months ago, Ashia Hansen suffered a horrendous break in her left leg. The European and Commonwealth champion has yet to return to triple jumping since dislocating her knee in Poland. She is, however, back in the Great Britain team as non-competing captain, with a brief to nurture fledgling talent.
Perhaps it bodes well that one member of Regis's family has already played a significant part in a sporting promotion this year. Last month her 27-year-old brother, Jason Roberts, scored for Wigan Athletic in the 3-1 win against Reading that secured them a place in English football's Premiership. He played with a fractured femur. His sister will be hoping for a less painful experience on the promotion trail.
"My brother's really happy for me," Regis said, after meeting up with Hansen and the rest of the British squad, among them Paula Radcliffe, at the team's headquarters in Fatima. "He told me, 'Just enjoy it. Do your own thing'."
Regis (who shares the same mother as Roberts but not the same father, hence the different names) has little memory of following the competitive fortunes of her other celebrated sporting relations: her uncle, Cyrille Regis, the former West Bromwich and England striker, and her cousin, John Regis, holder of the British record for the 200 metres. She has more vivid memories of Hansen, not least the British team captain's European Cup horror of 12 months ago. "I watched it on television last year and it was shocking to see," Regis recalled. "Ashia is a heroine of mine and it's really exciting for me to meet her for the first time."
For Hansen, a return to European Cup duty is part of a rehabilitation process she hopes to complete by resuming her competitive career in time to defend her Commonwealth title in Melbourne next March. "It's a fantastic opportunity for me to be team captain," the 33-year-old Birchfield Harrier said. "I'm looking forward to helping to support the youngsters like Yasmine. As long as she goes out and does her best, it will be good enough for the team."
With a personal best of 12.86m - 2.29m shy of Hansen's British record - Regis is ranked sixth in an eight-strong field in her event. In the context of the team competition, however, the points contribution of the teenage novice will be as valuable as those provided by two 31-year-old veterans: the millionaire Radcliffe, who runs in the 3,000m today and the 5,000m tomorrow, and Janine Whitlock, the pole vaulter who has been surviving on social security since returning to competition last winter after a doping ban.Reuse content