One of the best races of the Continental Cup was the women’s 100 meter hurdles. Tiffany Porter battled Dawn Harper-Nelson to a near photo finish, where Harper-Nelson runs 12.47, setting a Championship record, and Tiffany Porter runs 12.51, a new British record, and moving her way up in the always competitive, 100 meter hurdler food chain.
Imagine the scenario; you’ve gone all year undefeated, beating every rival in every given situation, posting the fastest times of the year. You are expected to win whenever you race.
Yet when you arrive at a major competition, suddenly all confidence gained from a season’s worth of hard work evaporates. A certain medal becomes a distant pipedream. A title that ‘should have been yours’ becomes someone else’s. You are forced to go again, no longer holding the position of number one. There’s always next year… right?
Now let’s consider that maybe you’re the athlete on the other side of the coin; you have had an okay year, you’re races have gone well in places, poorly in others. You know you have the potential to come out and be one of the best, but as of yet you cannot prove it. Even if you can, people question whether you are as good as you once were, or if you’ll have the strength to do it again.
You win a medal; a reward for a consistent injury-free but previously unspectacular year is yours. The doubters were wrong.
While some athletes can struggle to keep their cool in high pressure situations like major championships, finding the smallest distraction such as a twitch from a rival or a whistle from the crowd enough to beset their status quo, others thrive in such like situations.
By quite simply engulfing the roar of the crowd and the bright lights of the media into their sub-consciousness these runners, jumpers or throwers can find themselves rising from the position of underdog to world beater in one motion.
Of course, track and field has so many more dimensions to it that make it impossible to pigeon-hole the athletes into just two categories; of those who can do it on the big stage and those who can’t, otherwise, there would be no point in favourites and sports psychologists would almost certainly, be out of the job.
Yet it definitely seems as though there are particular athletes who fit into the former category more often than others, Tiffany Porter is one of them. As she showed on Sunday night.
After a long hard season of Diamond League racing, where everything has gone right on the big stage for the Brit, from her bronze medal at the world indoors in March to winning her first major gold at the Europeans in August, via a little trip to Glasgow to pick up Commonwealth silver. Porter would have been forgiven for feeling a little tired by mid-September.
So as she reached the start-line for this weekend’s Continental Cup in Marrakech many would have expected her to have been content with just picking up the points for the team.
That’s not the athlete she is; true to form, Porter gave every morsel of energy to stay with Dawn Harper-Nelson, as the American, 2014 Diamond League champion and world leader looked to streak away to another victory.
The pair remained almost inseparable to the line, Harper-Nelson, barely leading by a shoulders length, cruising over each hurdle equally fluidly. By the power of her dip, the win was Harper-Nelson’s, in a new championship record time of 12.47, for Porter the reward was a new British record! When she had least expected it.
It was as though the hurdling gods had wanted both to win, but upon realising it couldn’t happen, decided to reward both for their endeavours.
Porter was certainly pleased with her ‘reward’: “When I saw the national record, I couldn’t believe it. I tried not to chase it because when you chase it never happens, so tonight I wasn’t looking for that and it happened… even though I didn’t win I’m just so happy!”
As for her year she added: “Honestly, it’s been my best season ever, I ran a PB, I got my first gold medal, and it’s been great.”
Her time of 12.51 not only puts Porter on top of the British all-time rankings, but it pulls her towards the world summit too, with only Harper-Nelson and Queen Harrison having run faster this year. The hurdlers highest ever season’s ranking.
After grabbing a shock world outdoor bronze in 2013 and now adding some serious silverware and fast times this year, perhaps 2015 will be the crowning season for Porter as her stock continues to rise and each medal gained becomes less of a surprise, with a shot at the world outdoor title now a realistic target.
It’s time to imagine the scenario, Tiffany Porter.