US-born Brit hurdler wins race, quiets critics

March 9, 2012 - 4:06 PM
Turkey Athletics Indoor Worlds

Britain's Tiffany Porter, left, and Czech Republic's Lucie Skrobakova clear a hurdle in a Women's 60m hurdles heat during the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, March 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

ISTANBUL (AP) — With the words to "God Save the Queen" safely out of her mind, American-born British hurdler Tiffany Porter set her sights on the track Friday.

The 24-year-old Porter, who was selected captain of the British track and field team at the world indoor championships, won her 60-meter hurdles heat in 8.00 seconds a day after being asked if she knew the first few lines to the British national anthem.

"I'm focusing right now on competing and I'm very excited to be here. So I'm focusing on doing my best tomorrow in the finals," said Porter, who has a British mother and a Nigerian father but was born and raised in Michigan.

Porter, who has had a British passport since she was a baby, and some of her teammates have been labeled "Plastic Brits" by the British media because they were born abroad. But one of Britain's best hopes for a gold medal at the London Olympics is another foreign-born athlete, distance runner Mo Farah.

Olympics minister Hugh Robertson entered the fray, which has led UK Athletics to ban the Daily Mail tabloid from having access to the team because of Thursday's questioning.

"If you are going to represent Britain at the Olympics then I think it is sensible to know the words of the national anthem," Robertson told Britain's Press Association. "I would say that would be even more necessary if you think you are going to win a medal."

On Thursday at the British team news conference, Porter was asked if she knew the words to the song and asked to sing it.

"I do know the first ... I know the whole part of 'God Save the Queen,'" Porter said. "I'm not known for my singing ability. ... I don't think that's necessary."

Several of Porter's teammates came to her defense on Friday, the opening day of the world indoors at the Atakoy Arena.

"Great motivational speech last night by Tiffany Porter. She's a great team captain," middle-distance runner Lewis Moses said. "She's been getting a bit of stick, but she got us up for it last night and I want to say well done to her."

Helen Clitheroe, the British captain at the last world indoors two years ago in Doha, Qatar, also enjoyed Porter's talk.

"She gave a brilliant team speech last night and inspired us all," said Clitheroe, another distance runner. "I'm pretty sure if you asked the majority of the team, they wouldn't know the words to the national anthem — I do — but it's not a requirement to be our team captain, it's about someone who you can look up to, follow and inspire us, and Tiffany's that person."

Distance runner Farah was born in Somalia but become a star in Britain after winning the 5,000-10,000 double at the European Championships. He added a world title in the 5,000 last year in South Korea.

"I don't think that question was acceptable. I think it was out of order," Farah told the Daily Telegraph, referring to the question about the national anthem. "Tiffany's a great athlete and she has come here to do well and represent her country. As an athlete, you don't want to be answering questions like that."