'Plastic Brit' jibe propels Proctor into contention
The National Indoor Arena
Monday 20 February 2012
Perhaps it was only to be expected, but after claiming her first British record and beating the host of stars on show to the athlete of the meeting award at the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham on Saturday – Jessica Ennis and Liu Xiang amongst them – Shara Proctor was obliged to set the record straight on the subject of her Britishness.
The fact that the 23-year-old long jumper was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Anguilla – where her mother, Wilma, is the director of sport and her father, Orris, was formerly the secretary of education – has got her stuck with the "plastic Brit" label that has been attached to overseas recruits to the British track and field team in the run-up to the London Olympics.
"Anguilla is not recognised by the International Olympics Committee, so I am not able to compete for Anguilla in the Olympics," Proctor said, after breaking the 28-year-old British indoor long-jump record of 6.70m twice over, venturing out to 6.71m in the third round and 6.80m in the last. "It's every athlete's dream to be in the Olympics so I had to do what's best for me: join the team that I could represent at the Olympics."
As Anguilla happens to be a British overseas territory, Proctor is a British passport holder and in November 2010 she switched nationality. Last August she was a member of the GB team at the World Championships in Daegu but failed to get beyond the qualifying round. Her performance on Saturday moved her to fifth place in the world rankings, hinting at medal potential for the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, starting on 9 March, and for the home from home Olympics.
"I want to be on the podium," Proctor said. "I know I can jump further this summer."
The British outdoor record stands at 6.90m to Bev Kinch but Fiona May – born in Slough and raised in Derby – was just 2cm shy of it before she moved to Italy, changed nationality and became a double world champion and two-time Olympic silver medallist, improving to 7.11m. The Italians did not so much consider her to be plastic; they thought she was rather fantastic.
Asked whether the "Plastic Brit" tag angered her, Proctor said: "No, it doesn't. I use it for motivation. Everybody has an opinion but not everybody knows my background. My heart beats for being a British athlete."
Proctor is also a member of Birmingham's Birchfield Harriers, though her training base is Daytona Beach, Florida. She trains at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University there. One of her training partners is Danielle Carruthers, who took the 100m hurdles silver medal at the World Championships last year, but who was no match for Ennis in the 60m hurdles at the National Indoor Arena on Saturday.
The British multi-eventer beat the American hurdles specialist in 7.87sec, a lifetime best by 0.08sec and the fastest time in the world this year. Ennis also finished third in the long jump with a leap of 6.47m, an indoor personal best. "To come away with two personal bests is brilliant," she said. "It gives you a lot of confidence."
Mo Farah came away from the two miles with a European and British record time of 8min 08.07sec but with his confidence dented somewhat, as runner-up to Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge, one of his predecessors as world 5,000m champion. "It just shows you can take nothing for granted in distance races," said Farah, who will consult his coach, Alberto Salazar, before deciding whether to accept a place in the British team for the World Indoor Championships.
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