By Colleen Browning & Tim Pitcher

Life hurdles bring strength

Champion hurdler Tiffany Porter is anything but typical

Tiffany Porter at Commonwealth Games
GLASGOW, AUGUST 1, 2014: Tiffany Porter (far left) of England in the Women’s 100 metres hurdles at the Commonwealth Games. The final was won by Australia’s Sally Pearson, with Tiffany second. Photo Ryan Pierse/Getty Images.

On Twitter, hurdler Tiffany Porter identifies herself in a few words. Her description seems similar to other professional athletes. "Olympian." "Medallist." "Record-holder." "Wife."

But one word stands out. "Pharmacist."

Tiffany's athletic career, much like her multiple citizenship in Nigeria, Great Britain and the United States, is anything but typical.

"College was not easy being an athlete and trying to get my doctorate and trying to perform at a really high level," Tiffany says.

"But [my faith] helped with my transition from high school to college and my undergrad and grad to my doctorate level."

When she was a student-athlete at the University of Michigan in the USA, a chaplain from Athletes in Action encouraged Tiffany to make her faith more personal and all-encompassing.

"[Faith] has been in every aspect of my life; track, personal, family, everything," she says.

Tiffany Porter
Tiffany Porter

Her faith helped her adjust as a collegiate athlete, and as a student. Though her workload was stressful, Tiffany persevered in completing her doctorate in pharmacy and excelling on the race track.

Now a pharmacist and wife (to Team USA hurdler Jeff Porter), she continues to compete at the professional level. Because of her triple citizenship, she had to choose which country to represent and ultimately chose Great Britain.

It was a difficult decision, considering her family resides in the United States.

"The toughest thing for me as an athlete is to be away from my husband and my family so much," Tiffany says.

"I love my job, but if I could change one thing, I wouldn't be gone as much."

Tiffany Porter in Beijing
BEIJING, AUGUST 28, 2015: Tiffany Porter competes in the Women's 100 metres hurdles semi-final at the World Athletics Championships. Photo Andy Lyons/Getty Images.

She does not regret her choice though, and feels that joining Great Britain's national team was one of the best decisions she has ever made.

"It was for me an opportunity to be under assistance that would help me excel to my fullest potential as an athlete," she says. "I decided Great Britain had the right ingredients for me to do my best. I made the switch and I haven't looked back since."

She was also grateful for the encouragement she received from both her American and British teammates.

Tiffany used to find her identity in how well she ran, but in the past three years, she has realised her performance does not determine her worth as a person.

"If I hit a hurdle or if I don't do well, I'm not going to be any less of a person," Porter says. "It makes me a little more relaxed and allows me to focus in on what really matters, like executing good method and technique and running fast."

Her faith and her family have helped her press on through tough defeats on the track, and they remind her she is more than her accomplishments.

"Sometimes you don't run well, [and] it's very frustrating because we put so much time and energy into perfecting our craft," Tiffany says. "And [you] feel like you're coming out empty-handed when you have a bad race ... so having that support system makes track a whole lot more enjoyable."

Tiffany now focuses on building her character, as well as training, seeking to represent all aspects of her life well.

"When I'm on the track or walking down the street, I represent Christ, I represent my husband, I represent my family, and I represent my town as well as all three of my countries," she says.

Tiffany Porter in Zurich
Zurich, August 13, 2014: (from L) France’s Cindy Billaud, Great Britain’s Tiffany Porter and Germany’s Cindy Roleder pose on the podium for the Women's 100m hurdles medal ceremony during the European Athletics Championships. Photo Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images.

With Team GB, Tiffany has found success on the track. From 2011 to 2014, she has claimed two silver and two bronze medals at the World Indoor and Outdoor Championships, the European Indoor Championships, and is the three-time British Championships winner.

Unfortunately at the 2015 World Championships Tiffany lost her footing during her race and had a hard fall.

"It wasn't a good race, I made a lot of mistakes. I'm just really disappointed. I'm just going to grow from this, you have to brush yourself off and do better next time, and I will be back next year stronger," she later told the Independent.

Though her athletic goal is a World Championship gold medal, her life goal is to lead by example.

"Whether as a captain or as an older veteran, it's really important for us to lead by example and practice what [we] speak," she says. "If you're going to claim to be one way, then try to live your life out that way so that people see more than hear what you're saying."

Though the path may have been unorthodox, Tiffany is happy with where it has led her. "It's been a journey for me to get to this place where I am right now, but I'm enjoying it more than ever."?

Courtesy Athletes in Action USA

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