Proctor adds Caribbean flavour to lift British medal prospects

Anguilla long jumper and Long Island 400m runner Shana Cox fast tracked to Great Britain debuts
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The Independent Online

Asked yesterday to assess the state of Britain's track and field strength 14 months out from the London Olympics, Charles van Commenee, the head coach of UK Athletics, spoke of the "interesting early-season performances" produced by Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Dai Greene and Greg Rutherford. "It's quite good," the Dutchman concluded, "but we would be quite thin if the Games were to take place this week, or this year. We do need those 14 months to build the team stronger."

The strengthening process will be accelerated next week by the introduction of two new recruits from overseas in the Great Britain squad for the European Team Championships in Stockholm. Shara Proctor, a long jumper from the Caribbean isle of Anguilla, and Shana Cox, a 400m runner from Long Island in the United States, will make their debuts in the 1912 Olympic Stadium a week on Saturday and Sunday in a British team that has already been significantly bolstered by the acquisition of one international transferee this year.

The prospects of Van Commenee hitting his target of eight home medals in the Olympic track and field arena next year could only be enhanced if Proctor and Cox made the kind of instant impact Tiffany Ofili-Porter has achieved. On her Great Britain debut at the European Indoor Championships in Paris in March, the 23-year-old from Ypsilanti, Michigan, won a silver medal and broke Ennis' indoor British record in the 60m hurdles. At the Fanny Blankers-Koen Games in the Netherlands 11 days ago she broke Angie Thorp's 15-year-old British 100m hurdles record, clocking 12.77 seconds.

Ofili-Porter (who added a hyphenated suffix to her maiden name following her marriage to Jeff Porter last month) stands seventh in the world rankings. The fact that all six athletes ahead of her happen to be American underlines the wisdom of the switch she made, courtesy of her British mother. Only the first three finishers at the US trials next summer will get to compete in the 2012 Olympics.

Ofili-Porter will be in the British team in Stockholm next week and her presence will no doubt help Proctor to settle. The pair were room-mates the night before the Aviva International indoor meeting at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow in January.

"That's the only time I've been to Britain," Proctor confessed. "I've still to come to London, to say that I've been to Britain properly."

As a native of Anguilla, a British overseas territory in the Caribbean, Proctor has possessed a British passport since birth. As her homeland has no National Olympic Committee, the 22-year-old decided to make use of her British qualification as a passport to the 2012 Olympic Games. The home-from-home Olympics, as they will be for her, Ofili-Porter and Cox – who is ineligible to compete for Britain in global championships until September but who has been given clearance to make her debut in Stockholm.

Proctor intends to spend her time "shuttling back and forth" between Britain and Atlanta, where she trains alongside Dwight Phillips, the 2004 Olympic and three-time world champion long jumper. Her spiritual home remains Anguilla, an island with a population of 13,500, the same as Aberystwyth. "If I won in London it would be for Britain but in my heart Anguilla," Proctor confessed. "It was a dream to compete in the Olympics, possibly to win a medal. If I'd stayed with Anguilla it wouldn't have happened. If I do well it will be big news in Anguilla. They'll have a party – certainly in the shop."

Proctor's father, Orris, was Anguilla's Secretary for Education but retired to run the family grocery store, JW Proctors. Her mother, Wilma, is the island's Director of Sport.

What about the enduring British influence in Anguilla, though? "We use a lot of tea," Shara said. "We have BBC television channels." Which means Orris and Wilma Porter will get to watch their girl – sixth in the long jump at the 2009 World Championships – beef up the Great Britain team in Stockholm next week.

Britons set for take-off

Dai Greene 400m hurdles Winner of the European, Commonwealth and Continental Cup titles in 400m hurdles last year, the 25-year-old is GB captain for the European Team Championships.

Greg Rutherford long jump At 24, could the injury-plagued Milton Keynes man finally have found the consistency he needs to maximise his huge talent? Jumped a wind-assisted 8.32m to win in Eugene last weekend.

Danny Talbot 200m Just 20 last month, earned his senior GB debut with scorching early season form, winning the Loughborough International meeting 100m in 10.21sec.

Chambers left trailing by new generation of sprinting stars

Dwain Chambers found the young guns of the sprint game too hot to handle on the outskirts of Paris last night. The 33-year-old Briton could only finish fourth in 10.09sec in the 100m in the Meeting du Montreuil behind 21-year-old Jamaican Yohan Blake who won in 9.95sec. Christophe Lemaitre, 20, clocked a French record 9.96sec in second, with Daniel Bailey third.