Find out how British 100m hurdler Tiffany Porter used two years of major championship heartache – and a new coach – to fire herself to a new PB and a medal at the Moscow 2013 World Championships.
It is hard to imagine now, but just over 12 months ago sprint hurdler Tiffany Porter considered hanging up her spikes for good, after a hugely disappointing London Olympic Games. A painful back injury wrecked her medal ambitions, and she exited at the semi-final stage.
For the six weeks that followed she did not check Twitter or Facebook, nor follow the post-London Diamond League races. When people quizzed her about the Olympics, she would quickly change the subject. It was a crushing disappointment that caused her to question her career choice.
“I was so low, I considered quitting track and field,” says Porter, 25. “I thought: maybe this is just not for me. Maybe I should focus on my pharmacy [she’s a qualified pharmacist], and think about having some kids. It was a really hard thing to stomach. You feel you trust yourself and your ability, and it just feels like your body is failing you.”
Yet the pain slowly lifted, and the competitiveness gradually returned. She started to wonder how she would fare in the forthcoming 2013 season. She even started to have a nagging curiosity about how much she could lift in the gym.
“It was definitely a process, but I guess I eventually got over it. I thought: this year is going to be good. I used it as motivation. This year for me was a big redemption year for these past two years.”
In 2011, Porter was fancied to win a 100m hurdles medal at the Daegu World Championships, and was in contention in the final before she clattered through hurdle nine, lost her rhythm, and wound up fourth. Watch the race below:
She was “tremendously disappointed” after Daegu, and London only served to exacerbate the misery. She sought a fresh start for the countdown to Moscow 2013, and made the decision to seek pastures new with US coach Rana Reider.
“For me, it was time for a change, and to shake things up a little bit. I did my research on Rana and looked at his credentials. It was a pretty easy move for me because he has good relationships and he is a pretty innovative coach. That was important for me.”
Porter, who was born in Michigan, USA, to a Nigerian father and British mother, and is equally proud of all three, had been sharing her time between Michigan and London. Some believed a move to the Leicestershire market town of Loughborough, where the recently appointed British Athletics coach Rana Reider was based, was risky.
Not only has she thrived under Reider’s coaching, she has also fully embraced little old Loughborough.
“A lot of people told me this: Loughborough is not London, it is a small town, a university town and it is a lot different, but it is actually a lot better than I thought.
“What I really like about the city is that everything is within walking distance. I don’t have a car but I’m able to get around to do shopping, go to restaurants and the cinema,” says Porter, who’s a big fan of New Look and Topshop, by the way.
Big smile: Porter has enjoyed her best season yet in 2013
For the first time in her career, Porter has been training alongside world-class training partners. But she has benefited most from Reider’s input.
“He is a really innovative coach and wants to know the latest in everything,” she says. “He is open, receptive to feedback. He will say, ‘this is how I do it with the training programme, but how would you like to do it?’
“He makes adjustments for the athlete. He considers the strengths and weaknesses of every athlete, but he is also a really cool guy with good inter-personal skills.”
One of the biggest changes in her coaching programme has seen her longer, endurance sessions of the past replaced by shorter, sharper work. Her old regime would include lots of 250m and 300m hurdles workouts. They have been replaced by speed-based drills: where quality rules over quantity.
“It is still a phenomenon I’m trying to get used to,” she says. “I’ll still ask Rana If I can do an extra two [reps] and Rana is like, ‘no, just do the ones that you have to do, and do them well. You’ll be fine.’ Less is more and it has definitely improved me as an athlete.”
The benefits were there for all to see in Moscow. Porter looked in control throughout the competition, and delivered in the final, taking bronze in a new lifetime best of 12.55 to finish behind US sensation Brianna Rollins and Australia’s Olympic champion Sally Pearson. Watch it below:
Producing her best in Moscow has further solidified the belief in both her coach, and the belief in herself as an top-class athlete.
“I maintained my composure throughout the season and never doubted myself, but I think the most satisfying element was to put in a performance like that when it mattered most,” says Porter, who is also a world and European indoor silver medallist in the 60m hurdles.
Some 12 months on from being at her lowest ebb, she can look to the future with huge optimism.
Having earned redemption, Tiffany Porter is here to stay.