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A British track star jumps through a tough decade

Ex-Cuban Yamilé Aldama, an Olympic triple jumper, struggled for years to become a British citizen and deal with family adversity. 

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During this time, Aldama stuck by her husband, taking her son to visit him every week. In 2009 he was released, having served seven years of a 15-year sentence. Shortly afterward, she gave birth to their second son. In 2010, she received a British passport, and in 2011 she represented her new country at the 2011 World Championships in South Korea, finishing fifth.

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Not everyone is happy with the growing number of foreign-born athletes like Aldama that represent Britain. The tabloid newspapers, with their xenophobic tendencies, have dubbed them "Plastic Brits." But Aldama's positivity and charisma have endeared her to her teammates. The head athletics coach, Charles van Commenee, even pushed her as a candidate for the captaincy of the British team in London.

Despite her age, Aldama appears to be in her prime. She prides herself on her physical stamina: She pushes a car around a parking lot near her north London training base as part of her workout regimen. In March she won a gold medal at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

But it is determination and grit that got her through the travails of the last decade. Today, she has none of the reticence usual among athletes when they are asked what they hope to win. She wants a gold medal. And nothing, including a recent shoulder injury, will deter her.

As she wrote in a recent blog post in the Guardian, "it doesn't matter if I jump with just one arm … I will have a good Olympic Games. Whatever it takes."


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Kayla Harrison: An American Olympian rebuilds a life through judo and friends


Mohamed Hassan Mohamed: Training for the Olympics in the shadow of war

Behdad Salimi: An Iranian Olympian carries the weight of a nation               


Yamilé Aldama: A British track star jumps through a tough decade

Geeta Phogat: How an Indian wrestler defied gender taboos


Tahmina Kohistani: Afghan sprinter tries to beat the clock - and pollution


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