Aldama is worth her wait in gold

'Sweet moment' for Cuban-born athlete as she finally tastes success for Britain in triple-jump

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The Independent Online

It was in November 2001 that Yamile Aldama moved to London from Havana, with a newly-born son and a Scottish husband. Her dream was to go for Olympic triple jump gold in the red, white and blue of a Great Britain vest.

It took Zola Budd 13 days to get a British passport, but then she had the clout of the Daily Mail behind her. Aldama was not so lucky. After two years of waiting, and UK Athletics vainly pressing her cause, the native Cuban accepted an offer to represent Sudan in time for the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Which made the moment all the sweeter as the Wembley resident kissed the top step of the podium in the Atakoy Athletics Arena here yesterday before receiving a World Indoor Championship gold medal in a Great Britain tracksuit. "Of course it is sweet after everything that has happened," she reflected, a Union Flag draped around her shoulders. "It is a lot more special. I am 39, a mum of two. I can't ask for more."

Given the furore caused by the appointment as British team captain of the American-born Tiffany Porter – a silver medal winner in the 60m hurdles later yesterday – it was perhaps inevitable that Aldama was asked whether she "felt British". "Of course I feel British," she replied. "I have been in the country for 11 years. What more could you ask? I do everything I have to as a British citizen. My kids are British and60 per cent of my friends are British. Britain is home."

Even during the six years she spent hopping, stepping and jumping under a Sudanese flag of convenience (winning world indoor silver and bronze), Aldama remained living in London. She did consider quitting her sport when her husband was jailed for drugs trafficking but was encouraged to keep training by her coach, Frank Attoh, a former British international triple jumper.

Last summer, a year after the birth of her second child, she finally made the switch in allegiance to Britain. And here yesterday the woman who has triple jumped for three countries now became Britain's oldest ever global champion in any track and field event. Jonathan Edwards, the finest triple jumper of all time, was four years younger when he won the world outdoor title in 2001.

Aldama has always had the knack of rising to the big occasion and making the podium, and a second round jump of 14.82m yesterday put serious pressure on her rivals. Olga Rypakova got close with 14.63m in the fifth round but then stepped 2.3cm beyond the take-off board with a final desperate effort that might have snatched gold.

As it was, our 39-year-old golden girl – who turns 40 in August – became the second British winner of the women's triple jump at the World Indoor Championships. Like Aldama, Ashia Hansen – who prevailed in Maebashi in 1999 and in Birmingham in 2003 – happens to be a member of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers. Like her club-mate, she was also born overseas – in Evansville, Indiana. She lived in Ghana until the age of six.

"Some people have it easier; some have it difficult, like I did," Aldama said, reflecting on her own remarkable journey to the top. "But that's what I had to do and I'm here. This is the best moment for me. I can't wait to get home and celebrate with my family. Before I came here, my 10-year-old son told me, 'Mummy, you have to win'."

The chances of Porter winning gold depended on Sally Pearson either being disqualified for a false start or being taken out by a hurdle. As it was, the Aussie golden girl from the Gold Coast – the reigning female world athlete of the year – blitzed to an unchallenged victory in 7.73sec. Porter took the silver medal in 7.94sec.

"I followed my own advice, that I gave to the team at my team speech," she said. "I was able to regain my composure after not executing my race at all well in the semi-finals."

Dwain Chambers snatched bronze from Trell Kimmons of the US by less than the thickness of his vest, both men clocking the same time, 6.60sec. The title Chambers won in Doha two years ago went to the Justin Gatlin in 6.46sec.

Like the Briton, Gatlin is a re-instated doping offender (twice re-instated, in fact). Being American, though, and free from any precluding bye-law, he is free to go for Olympic gold in Chambers' home town this summer.

Today's highlights

Noon Women's pole vault final. The budding Holly Bleasdale shooting for a podium place.

12.05 Women's long jump final.Shara Proctor starts as a strong medal contender.

1.10 Men's 3,000m final. Mo Farah looks to add world indoor gold to the world outdoor version.

1.30 Men's high jump final. Robbie Grabarz could emerge with a medal.

2.20 Women's 4 x 400m relay final. Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu runs for the GB team.

3.05 Women's 60m final. Britons Asha Philip and Jodie Williams could feature but have semis first (12.15).

3.20 Men's 60m hurdles final. Andy Pozzi needs to get past the semis (2.45) before challenging for a medal.

3.40 Men's 4 x 400m relay final. Another medal chance for the Brits.

Simon Turnbull