Aldama's triple jump from Cuba to GB may fall short of Daegu
Monday 08 August 2011
At the end of the London Grand Prix on Saturday, a group of British athletes was paraded around the track on an open-topped double-decker bus which bore the sign, "Next stop gold, Daegu".
Three weeks ahead of the World Championships in South Korea, though, the final day of the Diamond League meeting had not been the best for the home contingent.
Still, there was news of another overseas-born athlete joining the Great British athletics bandwagon – a former world No 1 and World Championship silver medal winner, no less. Nobody could accuse Yamile Aldama of hitching a ride in quite the same hasty fashion as the recent rush of passengers from distant shores. Unlike Shana Cox, Tiffany Porter, Shara Proctor and Julian Reid – and indeed Michael Bingham and Germaine Mason before them – the Cuban-born triple jumper has been a British resident for quite some time.
"She's actually lived here for coming up to 10 years, ever since she left Cuba in 2001," said Aldama's long-time British coach, Frank Attoh. "She lives in London. She competes for a British club, Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers. She's got a British passport.
"I don't think we can question her motives. I think she's possibly more British than some of the guys that we've acquired. She hasn't just come over from Jamaica or America."
Indeed, it was in November 2001 that Aldama moved from Havana to Limehouse in east London after marrying a Scot, Andrew Dodds. Her husband was jailed in 2003 for drug-trafficking offences but the couple remained together and now live in Wembley, north-west London, with their two children.
Aldama applied for British citizenship soon after arriving in Britain and joining Attoh's training group at Barnet Copthall Stadium in north London. She was told that she would have to serve the three-year residency qualification period and, despite appeals from UK Athletics, the Home Office refused to expedite her case to allow her to compete for Britain at the Olympic Games in Athens in August 2004 – three months before reaching the three-year residency mark.
Having missed out on the World Championships in 2003, the year she topped the world rankings with a distance of 15.29 metres, Aldama did not want to forgo another shot at a global title while in her prime and accepted an offer to switch to Sudan. She finished fifth in the triple jump final in Athens as a Sudanese athlete. In Sydney in 2000, she had been fourth as a member of the Cuban team.
Now, at the age of 38 and 12 months after the birth of her second child, Aldama is looking to compete in a third Olympics for a third different country. The 1999 World Championship silver medallist is also hoping to hop, step and jump for Britain at the 2011 World Championships, which start in Daegu, South Korea, a fortnight from Saturday, although her fate rests in the hands of the selectors.
Aldama had been told she needed to achieve the A-standard qualification distance of 14.30m, to make the squad, which will be finalised today and announced tomorrow. Competing for Shaftesbury Barnet in the UK Women's League at Winchester on Saturday, she jumped 14.30m exactly, but with the benefit of a following wind of 2.6m per second, 0.6m above the limit.
"What difference that will make to the selectors, I don't know," Attoh said. "We'll see what happens. There's been a lot of pressure on her to jump the A-standard but she's just coming back. She had a baby last August. It's a tough old world, but I think she'll survive. She's been through tougher times than this.
"She may miss a major championship but look forward to the Olympics. It would be nice to have a British representative in the women's triple jump. At the moment we've got no one. I think it'll push the younger athletes along to see what an older person can do."
At 37, Helen Clitheroe won the award for the domestic Performance of the Day at the Palace. The Preston Harrier sliced 24sec off her lifetime best in the 5,000m, finishing runner-up to US champion Lauren Fleshman in 15min 06.75sec and booking her place on the Daegu bus.
There was also a fine win for Lisa Dobriskey in the 1500m, ahead of Hannah England, but cause for British cheer was otherwise thin on the ground the day after Mo Farah's stunning 3000m victory and Jenny Meadows'top-notch triumph in the 800m.
Phillips Idowu finished third in the triple jump with 17.07m – behind Tosin Oke, a former British team-mate who now competes for Nigeria, and the US champion Christian Taylor, who showed his World Championship medal potential with a winning jump of 17.68m. "All I'm focused on is winning gold in Daegu," said Idowu, the reigning world champion.
Short of form on the comeback trail after injury, Christine Ohuruogu finished eighth and last in the 400m, clocking 51.87sec in a race won in a nifty 49.66sec by her long-time rival Sanya Richards-Ross of the US.
"I have to be realistic," Ohuruogu, the reigning Olympic champion, said. "I haven't done enough work to challenge these girls. I am trying to catch up and there is a lot of work to be done."
There was also disappointment for Lawrence Okoye, the 19-year-old British record holder who finished ninth in the discus, and for James Shane, who suffered an Achilles twinge in warm-up and had to withdraw from the field for the Emsley Carr Mile.
On and off track
Huge 5,000m PB for 37-year-old Preston Harrier.
Impressive 1500m win by injury-plagued Kent woman.
Fifth in 400m in 51.01sec. Her fastest for seven years.
Labouring on comeback trail. Last in 400m.
Ninth in discus. May miss out on Daegu.
Struggling after injury. Failed to finish 1500m.
According to Charles van Comedy's Twitter page – a spoof account parodying UK Athletics chief Charles van Commenee – when the British athletics selectors meet today to decide the team for the World Championships, "a lot of tough choices will be decided by rock, paper, scissors".
In June, Van Commenee criticised Phillips Idowu for using Twitter to announce his withdrawal from the European Team Championships and suggested tweeters were "clowns and attention seekers". Two months on, a mystery joker has been parodying the Dutchman – and also seeking fresh talent.
"So Sooty chucked a pizza so hard that it knocked out Paul Daniels," Van Comedy observed last week. "Someone give that puppet a discus."
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