Jeffrey and Tiffany Porter are married hurdlers, both were born in the U.S. and both are graduates of the University of Michigan. However, Jeff competes for Team USA and Tiffany is on the Great Britain team. The couple were both at the 2012 London Summer Olympics but are still looking for their first Olympic medal. Jeff runs in the Men’s 110m hurdles, which start on Monday with the final on Tuesday at the Rio Olympics. Tiffany will race in the Women’s 100m hurdles on Tuesday, with the final set for Wednesday. The couple have been married since 2011.
Here’s a look at their careers and relationship.
1. Tiffany Has Been Competing for Britain Since 2011 & Has Dual American & British Citizenship
Tiffany’s 2011 decision to run for Great Britain at international meets was a highly controversial topic in the U.K., especially in the lead up to the London Olympics. The daily Mail infamously labelled her a “Plastic Brit” and she was grilled over whether or not she knew the first two lines of “God Save The Queen.” She was also accused of switching to Great Britain because she couldn’t make the American team.
Tiffany had never lived in the U.K. and was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Her mother is of British descent and her father is Nigerian. Tiffany has had dual citizenship since she was born.
Just a month after she was labeled a “Plastic Brit,” she added fuel to the fire by tweeting about how excited she was for the Fourth of July.
“The point I was trying to make was that I am very much American. I am very much British. I am very much Nigerian,” Porter told the Guardian in May 2012. “I am extremely proud to be all three. I’m not apologising for that. It’s who I am. I embrace it. It’s very important to be true to myself.”
“The reasons for my change weren’t because I couldn’t make the American team,” Porter told the Independent. “I could have run for America, Great Britain or Nigeria. I chose Great Britain because I really appreciate the support that we have here.”
2. Jeff Almost Retired After London, But His Twin, Rutgers Football Player Joe, Convinced Him Otherwise
Jeff, a New Jersey native, was considering retirement after the London Games. He really thought he had accomplished all he wanted, even though he didn’t make the 110m hurdles final. However, his twin brother, former Rutgers football player Joe Porter, insisted that his brother still had something left to prove. Right after he made the Olympic team, he called Joe.
“The first thing Joe said to me was, ‘I’m on my way to Rio,’” Jeff told the Asbury Park Press.
Jeff later explained that their sibling rivalry pushed both of them to excel in sports. “I attribute a lot of my success to being brought up with Joe. I never thought I was that good. I thought Joe was faster and more talented,” Jeff told the Asbury Park Press.
3. Jeff Runs With the Memory of His Late Father, Who Died of Lung Cancer After Escaping 9/11
In an interview with WFAN, Jeff said that he always runs with the memory of his later father, John, who always pushed him to compete. Jeff said that his father would always buy him $100 spikes instead of $100 Jordans.
“After he passed (away), I asked my mother why he did that,” Jeff told WFAN. “My mom said: ‘Your father believed that you would get further in your life with a pair of spikes than you would with a pair of Jordans.’ Those kind of things resonate with me.”
Jeff’s father was diagnosed in Stage IV lung cancer in 2006 as a result of dangerous material he inhaled while escaping New York during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. John Porter did not smoke. He died in 2008.
Jeff told WFAN:
It’s comforting to know that I am never running alone. Through the disappointments, through the heartaches, my father never lost faith in me and my abilities. He was always predicting where I was going to be, what it would take to medal, what it would take to be on the top. It’s very comforting to know I have that support from my family, I had that support from him. These races that I run aren’t just for me alone — it’s for my entire family. It elevates us, it shows us that we can do anything.
Jeff told MGoGlue.com that the last time he saw his father was at the 2008 Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon. “I didn’t make the team that year, but he was happy as hell to be there. His son, from south Jersey, had qualified for the Olympic trials,” he said.
4. Tiffany’s Sister, Cindy Ofili, Also Runs for Great Britain, Despite Being Born in the U.S.
Tiffany’s younger sister, Cindy Ofili, was also born in Ypsilanti and is also running for Team Great Britain in the 100m hurdles in Rio. They also both graduated from the University of Michigan.
Tiffany and Olifi finished one-two at the British Championships in June to earn their trips to Rio. It was the second straight year where they won gold and silver and were just .02 seconds apart.
Olifi only had her Team GReat Britain affiliation confirmed last year, Athletics Weekly reported. Like her older sister, she also has had dual citizenship since birth.
“It has always been my intention to opt for GB, especially having seen my sister compete for Team GB in the London Olympics,” Olifi said last year. “I just hope to be good enough to now earn the right to be selected based on my performances.”
When Olifi, who is seven years younger than Tiffany, was only 12, Tiffany vowed to retire if her sister beat her, but she’s rethinking that now.
“She’s so much younger than me and I was doing so great at the time that I didn’t even think about it,” Tiffany told the Telegraph last year. “Now she’s running so well that I might have to eat my words. Hopefully I can continue to run well against her. It’s a good rivalry.”
5. Tiffany & Jeff Plan to Retire After Rio To Start a Family
Tiffany and Jeff live in Canton, Michigan. She works as a pharmacist at a CVS there and Jeff is working on a doctorate in higher education at EMU and works at Michigan’s athletic department. They are planning on retiring to have children, they told MGoBlue.
“Tiffany wants to have babies. She’s ready to have children, and at this point, after this year, it’s about that time,” Jeff told the site.
Tiffany said she is 90 percent sure that she will not compete in another Olympics.
Tiffany and Jeff surprisingly first connected on Facebook in 2005, when Tiffany was looking to become friends with other hurdlers. She was a freshman and he was a junior at the time. She didn’t like him at first, but as they continued training together, they grew to love each other.
“Jeff was very boisterous, but I can see the evolution of 19-year-old Jeff to 30-year-old Jeff. So, it’s been quite the ride,” Tiffany told MGoBlue.com.