Cox marks debut by doing bit for Britain

American-born 400m runner takes 'plastic Brit' insults in her stride to earn 10 valuable points in European Team Championships

By Simon Turnbull
Sunday 23 October 2011 02:32

She comes from Hicksville, USA – the hamlet on Long Island where Billy Joel and Lorraine Bracco of The Sopranos and Goodfellas fame were also raised. Shana Cox was a pupil at Holy Trinity Diocesan High School, Hicksville, when she set a US high school record for the 300 metres. Yesterday she was running in the red, white and blue of Great Britain on the first day of the European Team Championships.

In the 1912 Olympic Stadium, where the future US Second World War general George Patton finished fifth in the modern pentathlon, Cox took her first steps on the road to becoming one of the home heroes at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Running in the 400m, she finished third in 51.49 seconds, earning 10 points for the country she decided to join last winter. The 26-year-old has dual nationality. Both of her parents are Londoners.

A student in human resource management at Penn State University, Pennsylvania, Cox is well placed to consider the phenomenon of the overseas recruits who are bolstering the GB track and field team – "the Plastic Brits", as the Daily Mail, the newspaper that brought Zola Budd from South Africa to Britain, chose to christen them last week.

"Of course, there's going to be some criticism, but it doesn't really bother me," she said. "There are other things that are more entertaining than my situation and I'm sure it'll get old after a while."

Cox's case is similar to that of Tiffany Ofili-Porter, who made her GB debut at the European Indoor Championships in Paris in March and who will run in the 100m hurdles here this afternoon. A native of Ypsilanti, Michigan, Ofili-Porter has a British mother and a British passport. She is seventh in the world rankings in the 100m hurdles, behind a Canadian and five Americans. Her prospects of claiming one of the three American spots in her event for the London Olympics were less than 50-50. The same could be said of Cox, who is 12th in the world for the 400m, the top Briton – way ahead of the injury-plagued Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu – but behind six Americans.

From the perspective of Charles van Commenee, the head coach of UK Athletics, the acquisition of the women from Hicksville and Ypsilanti is a mutually beneficial piece of human resource management. The same applies to Shara Proctor, who makes her GB debut in the long jump this afternoon. Her case is different to those of the American-born duo; she would be unable to represent her homeland in London next year because Anguilla has no Olympic affiliation. The Caribbean island is a British territory and she has held a British passport since birth.

You could argue that the new Brits are plastic and far from fantastic, but they are as British as Michael Bingham, the US-born 400m runner, and Germaine Mason, the Jamaican-born high jumper, who have won major championship medals for Britain in recent years.

Of the British-born athletes who were in action yesterday, Dai Greene won the 400m hurdles with ease in 42.91sec and the men's 4 x 100m relay quartet won in 38.60sec. At the end of day one Britain were third in the overall rankings, behind Russia and Germany.

The British performance of the day came in the women's javelin, Goldie Sayers re-emerging after two injury-ravaged seasons with a throw of 64.46m for second place behind the 66.22m of Christina Obergfoll, the German who beat her to Olympic bronze in Beijing. In the men's 100m the 33-year-old Dwain Chambers trailed in the slipstream of the 21-year-old Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre, finishing second in 10.07sec.

Twitter row: Van Commenee rebuke a 'blatant lie', says Idowu

World triple jump champion Phillips Idowu yesterday hit back at Charles van Commenee's accusation that he lacked "responsibility and dignity" by announcing his withdrawal from the European Team Championships on Twitter. Idowu disputed the head coach's assertion that he had informed him of his displeasure.

"I haven't spoken to Charles van Commenee since I came back from a warm weather training camp in May, so that's a blatant lie," Idowu claimed in a BBC radio interview. Neither Van Commenee nor any other UK Athletics official were prepared to respond as the rift deepened.

Idowu added: "I said on a number of occasions, 'I'm not going to compete.' That seems to have [been] lost somewhere. Whether Charles picked up the messages or not, that's got nothing to do with me. That's due to his staff. It's kind of unfair that he's saying that 'Phil's an idiot because he tweets.' My aim is to jump as well as I can, go out there and win gold for my country. I don't need this kind of rubbish."

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