This is the fifth story that Stuart Weir did on the Tokyo 2021 Previews. This piece is on Cindy Sember and Tiffany Porter, the hurdling sisters who went 2,3 at the 2021 European Indoors for the 60m hurdles.
Winning an Olympic medal is the ultimate accolade in our sport but for two sprint hurdlers in team GB, there is arguably a higher prize to be contested, the family championship! Sisters, Cindy Sember and Tiffany Porter continue their friendly rivalry this week. To complicate matters further they share a coach, Jeff Porter, former U.S. Olympic hurdler, who also happens to be Tiffany’s husband! Incidentally, Tiffany once explained to me the dynamics of a husband/wife coaching relationship: “Jeff is in charge at the track but normal service resumes when we are back home!”
The sisters went head-to-head in the European indoors, earlier this year, with Cindy taking silver and Tiffany bronze. In the British championship and Olympic selection trials, it was a 1-2 for the sisters but this time with Tiffany winning.
The sisters were both in the 2016 Rio Olympic final, but with all that has happened to both of them in the five years since, it is remarkable that they are ready for another Olympic adventure.
Tiffany saw the 2021 European Indoors as a game-changer: “The European Indoors was a fantastic moment for both of us because we had both been through so much since Rio. Cindy had had what some people described as a career-ending Achilles tendon injury. I am a little bit more seasoned and having had my daughter, have come back from childbirth to run at an elite level. Both of us in our individual ways had been counted out. So to reach that moment and take home two medals was very special. We have a great relationship and a great rivalry which makes us elevate our performance every day in training”.
Was coming back after childbirth to compete always the plan or did Tiffany have doubts if it was possible? “Yes, if I’m 100 percent honest I did have doubts. And I was OK with that. I went into the pregnancy knowing that I might not be able to get back to that elite status and was OK with it. I was very fulfilled with what I had achieved in my career but at the same time I never ruled out coming back. After delivering my daughter I found that I still had that itch, the competitive edge to me. Giving myself the grace to take it one bit at a time certainly helped me get to where I am today. I watched Doha 2019. There were a lot of moms out there doing such fantastic things and I will say that every one of them was very inspiring to me then and now.
“Becoming a mother and taking about two years away from the sport has given me a new sense of perspective – and, I think, an improved perspective. When I go to training and have difficult sessions or fantastic sessions, it keeps me grounded about what is important in life. The perspective helps relieve the tremendous amount of pressure that I used to put on myself in the pre-momma years. I now approach it all with gratitude. Having had to maneuver 2020 and all the curve balls that Covid threw at us, my attitude now is gratitude. I am grateful for this opportunity to be in Tokyo to compete at the games. I am grateful I am back running elite times and I am grateful that my coach (and husband) and my sister are here with me. But I think that renewed sense of perspective has led to me feeling the best I ever have before champs”.
Cindy was fourth in Rio just 0.02 of a second from taking a bronze medal. Then the following year she sustained that serious injury: “It’s been a long and difficult journey2, she told me. “It took quite a bit of time to get back to form. I had several other small injuries along the way which hindered my progress. Finally, to be back to form and to be running better than I ever have before is really good. A big part of this has been my Christian faith, just trusting that God has a plan for my life, which He shows me every day. I am very grateful to be in this position”.
Both sisters acknowledged that they were most fortunate than most in an Olympics with no families allowed, in that they had each other plus Tiffany’s husband Jeff in Tokyo.
But who will be crowned family champion? Let’s give the last word to Cindy: “We’re a very competitive family for sure. We’ll see how it goes. We’re both going to be competitive for sure. There are a lot of excellent ladies running but it’s anybody’s race on the day”.