Polly Jumps To Yamile Aldama Aid?

Blunkett may put Aldama on track to jump for Britain in Athens
Duncan Mackay
Monday July 28, 2003
The Guardian

Yamile Aldama’s hopes of competing for Britain in next year’s Olympics have
been raised with the news that the home secretary David Blunkett is studying
her case for citizenship and may fast-track her application.
The Cuban-born triple jumper, ranked No1 in the world this year, is not
eligible for a UK passport until October 2004, which means she would miss
the Olympics next August. She is already resigned to sitting out the world
championships in Paris next month.

But UK Athletics officials have appealed to Blunkett to consider Aldama for
British citizenship ahead of schedule so she can compete in Athens. “We keep
pushing down the corridor of powers and we are getting further and higher,”
said Max Jones, the UK Athletics performance director.

“It’s got to David Blunkett level. The higher it goes the better it is. We
hope we can bring it to a head in a couple of months. Hopefully common sense
will prevail and she will be able to jump for Britain in the Olympics.”

Aldama, the 1999 world silver medallist, will have boosted her case by
producing the outstanding performance of the Norwich Union AAA world
championship trials here yesterday. She broke Ashia Hansen’s record with a
leap of 14.98m, also equalling the UK all-comers record.

Aldama, who turns 31 next month, added class to an event lacking most of the
sport’s leading names, including Hansen who is recovering from an operation
to remove a bone spur from her achilles. “It can’t have done her any harm
competing here and with such distinction,” said Jones.

Aldama was among those to benefit from a new scheme under which the sponsors
Norwich Union awarded £5,000 to the five athletes who produced the best
performances of the weekend. The money will prove useful as, being
effectively stateless, she has missed out on potential prize money of
$30,000 (£18,550) at the world indoor championships and $60,000 (£37,000) at
the outdoor event in Paris. Having jumped 15.29m in Rome two weeks ago she
would have been the gold medal favourite in Paris.

So desperate was Aldama to compete in the world championships that she
offered to represent Cuba and donate any prize money she won to them. They
refused. “Once you leave Cuba they aren’t interested in you any more,” said
Frank Attoh, her coach.

Aldama came to live in London in 2001 after marrying Andrew Dodds, a Scot
she had met while he was on holiday in Havana. They have a son, Amil, but
Dodds is now serving a 15-year jail sentence in Wormwood Scrubs for drug
offences. Aldama was exonerated of any involvement.

It was thought initially that she planned to divorce Dodds when she found
out about his criminal activities but she denied the reports, perhaps aware
that her case could be postponed a further two years if she were divorced.

“The initial shock meant she wanted nothing to do with her husband,”
admitted Attoh. “But she has had a child with him. You can’t not love
someone in the space of a few days.”

If Blunkett does not rubber-stamp Aldama’s application she is almost certain
to talk to other countries about representing them in Athens.

Her most likely destination would be Qatar, the Middle East country who have
already recruited Kenya’s Commonwealth 3,000m steeplechase champion Stephen
Cherono and distance runner Albert Chepkurui. “Yamile wants to compete in
the Olympics and we would have to find a way of doing that if she can’t
represent Britain,” said Attoh.