It might have happened back in 2003, when Yamile Aldama had just turned 31 and was sitting on top of the world rankings. Instead, eight years on, the Havana-born, London-based triple jumper will be into her 40th year when she finally gets to compete for Britain – in the qualifying round of her event at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, on 30 August.
At 39 years, two weeks and two days, Aldama will become the oldest ever debutant for the Great Britain track-and-field team – and the first athlete to compete for three countries from three different continents in the 28-year history of the World Championships. It is an unprecedented hop, step and jump that has taken the mother-of-two from Cuba to Sudan to Britain, the final leg of her journey even taking the Great Britain selectors by surprise.
In naming Aldama yesterday as part of a 67-strong British team who were set a target of seven medals in South Korea, Charles van Commenee, the head coach of UK Athletics, confessed: "It was only on Thursday last week that UK Athletics, including myself, were informed that Yamile had eligibility. UKA had not been involved in that process. It was a request from the athlete straight to the International Association of Athletics Federations.
"The selection panel had to treat her the same as any other British athlete and she met the criteria required to represent the team. It is not as if she has dropped out of the sky. We have known Yamile for a long time.
"She has lived in London for 10 years and she applied for British citizenship 10 years ago. I was actually involved at the time, because I was looking after the jump events in Britain. The outcome of that process was that she did not get a British passport at that time and in order to compete internationally she almost escaped to Sudan."
In fact, while Aldama represented Sudan on the international stage, winning two world indoor championship medals (silver in 2004, bronze in 2006) and finishing fifth at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, she continued to live in London, training with Frank Attoh's jumps group at Barnet Copthall Stadium and competing at club level for Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers. It was a 14.18m jump in the UK Women's League meeting at Winchester on Saturday that clinched her selection in the British team for Daegu.
Aldama moved from Havana to London in 2001 but, despite appeals from UK Athletics, the Home Office would not expedite her citizenship application in time for her to represent Britain at the 2003 World Championships in Helsinki or the 2004 Olympics. It was the prospect of missing the Athens Games that persuaded her to accept an invitation to represent Sudan.
"She has always been a part of British athletics in a way," Van Commenee added. " She has been coached by a British coach, Frank Attoh, so we know her. I think she is definitely capable of making it to the final in Daegu."
There are other new faces in the British team – or newish. James Shane made his senior international debut at the European Team Championships in Stockholm in June, finishing third in the 1500m. The 21-year-old from Billericay, who missed the Emsley Carr Mile at Crystal Palace last Saturday after suffering an Achilles twinge in warm-up, is one of a handful of athletes who have been picked with only B qualifying standards. Aldama and Martyn Rooney are others.
As expected, following his failure to make the first three in the trials, Mark Lewis-Francis has not been given a berth in the individual 100m. He does, however, get a place in the 4x100m relay squad.
If achieved, Van Commenee's seven-medal target would be an improvement of one on the haul from Berlin two years ago. With Mo Farah top of the world rankings at 5,000m and 10,000m, Jessica Ennis No 1 in the heptathlon and Phillips Idowu favourite for the triple jump, there is a realistic possibility of more than half of the tally being met with golds.
"I never rule out nice experiences," Van Commenee said. "We need to improve and that means we have to set a target of seven medals. I've said many times the target for the London Olympics is eight. We should come close 12 months out."
The team will be captained by the 32-year-old Welsh sprinter Christian Malcolm. "I have known him for a long time," Van Commenee said. "I remember in Paris in 2003 finding him playing table tennis in the lobby in the middle of the night, not having a clue about how to prepare properly for a World Championships. He is now one of the most professional athletes that we have in the team.
"He has travelled that journey. He has made the transition I would like to see in every athlete."
Good Korea move: Four new faces for Daegu
Yamile Aldama (triple jump)
Turns 39 on Sunday. Lives in Wembley. Moved to London in 2001 with her Scottish husband. Has competed in the World Championships for Cuba (second in 1999) and Sudan (fourth in 2004).
James Shane (1500m)
Rewarded for stunning victory in trials, fastest time in national championship 1500m for 25 years. Runner-up in European Under-23 Championships last month. Aged 21. From Billericay, Essex.
Jack Green (400m hurdles)
Trains with European and Commonwealth champion Dai Greene. Aged 19. Missed trials with tonsilitis but has improved this summer from 50.49sec to 48.98sec. European U-23 champion.
Holly Bleasdale (pole vault)
Ranked ninth in the world after 4.70m British record vault in Mannheim, Germany, on 2 July. Aged 19. From Euxton in Lancashire. Won European U-23 title last month.
GB Team for World Championships
100m Harry Aikines Aryeetey, Dwain Chambers, Marlon Devonish
200m James Ellington, Christian Malcolm
400m Martyn Rooney
800m Andrew Osagie, Michael Rimmer
1500m James Shane
5,000m Mo Farah
110m hurdles Lawrence Clarke, William Sharman, Andy Turner
400m hurdles Jack Green, Dai Greene, Nathan Woodward
High jump Martyn Bernard, Tom Parsons
Pole vault Steve Lewis
Long jump Greg Rutherford, Chris Tomlinson
Triple jump Phillips Idowu
Discus Abdul Buhari, Brett Morse, Carl Myerscough
4x100m Aikines Aryeetey, Devonish, Ellington, Mark Lewis-Francis, Malcolm, Craig Pickering, Danny Talbot
4x400m Richard Buck, Chris Clarke, Green, Greene, Luke Lennon Ford, Nigel Levine, Rooney, Richard Strachan
Marathon Andrew Lemoncello, Lee Merrien, Dave Webb
100m Jeanette Kwakye, Anyika Onuora, Laura Turner
400m Lee McConnell, Christine Ohuruogu, Nicola Sanders
800m Emma Jackson, Jenny Meadows, Marilyn Okoro
1500m Lisa Dobriskey, Hannah England
5,000m Helen Clitheroe
3,000m steeplechase Barbara Parker
100m hurdles Tiffany Porter
400m hurdles Eilidh Child, Perri Shakes-Drayton
Pole vault Holly Bleasdale, Kate Dennison
Long jump Shara Proctor
Triple jump Yamile Aldama
Javelin Goldie Sayers
Hammer Sophie Hitchon
Heptathlon Jessica Ennis, Louise Hazel
20km race walk Jo Jackson
4x100m Montell Douglas, Kwakye, Onuora, Abi Oyepitan, Asha Philip, Porter, Turner
4x400m Eilidh Child, McConnell, Meadows, Ohuruogu, Okoro, Nadine Okyere, Sanders, Shakes-Drayton
Marathon Alyson Dixon, Susan PartridgeReuse content