Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Untapped Potential


Back in 2008, Jeanette Kwakye burst onto the global sprint scene with a world indoor medal, a national record and an Olympic final place and now, after a two-year injury nightmare, she’s back with 2012 firmly in her sights, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 27-year-old Londoner has used the upcoming Olympic Games in her own backyard as motivation to return to her former self in time to make a comeback of Olympian standards and is already on the right track.

Coached by Mike Afilaka, the British indoor 60m record-holder is injury-free and feeling strong for the first time in years and is relishing the fight for top fitness in the countdown for the big summer after next.

“As most people know, the last two years I have been suffering from various injuries and had to undergo two operations,” Kwakye explained.

“Obviously this has been something I have found very difficult however, I am over all of my injuries and I am currently fighting fit and looking forward to the 2011 season and of course 2012.”

Understandably, her key aim is to stay injury-free yet the Woodford Green with Essex Ladies athlete still harbours hopes of returning to the international podium, believing anything is possible if she stays fit and healthy.

Cruel Fate

The last Olympic year brings great memories for Kwakye for it was the season when she made her international breakthrough and far exceeded her ambitions.

Taking world indoor 60m silver in Valencia with a 7.08 British record, the sprint sensation went onto win the UK outdoor 100m championship and Olympic trial before placing an outstanding sixth in Beijing – becoming the first British woman to reach the final since Kathy Cook in 1984, in a 11.14 lifetime best to go fourth on the
British all-time lists to boot.

With such a promising season under her belt, the future was looking bright yet Kwakye could not capitalise on her splendid form due to injuries, ensuring her great potential remained relatively untapped.

“2008 for me was a massive breakthrough on the international stage with the indoors and the Olympics, so I went into 2009 with every intention to push further and challenge for the top spots, unfortunately due to injuries this was not meant to be,” Kwakye revealed.

“I am very proud of my Olympic final place and my British indoor 60m record.”

Fate was indeed cruel for the Loughborough University Politics and Economics graduate, for she could only race on a handful of occasions over the next two seasons, barely finishing within half a second of her best.

Unfinished Business

For a woman with six national titles as well as fourth place from the 2007 European indoor championships under her belt, training and competing in pain and at a below-par standard were extra tough to contend with but her sponsors Nike remained faithful and the sprinter has not given up her athletic dreams just yet.

“My training in the winter currently consists of lots of base work so plenty of running on grass and tough gym sessions,” Kwakye explained.

“I now take extra special care with my conditioning work so I can avoid injury, too.”

Currently unsure as to whether she will participate in the full indoor season this winter, Kwakye’s focus is firmly on regaining her form in time for the summer where she intends to book her place on Team GB’s squad for the world championships in Daegu, South Korea.

“My goals are to reach as close to my full potential as possible,” Kwakye revealed.

“I want to break records and set the bar for the next generation of sprinters coming through, and I am quite keen to see what opportunities will arise after 2012. I have had a bit of media experience but I would love navigate myself through the business world and apply what I have learnt from elite track to that.”

With that same fighting instinct to succeed, Kwakye evidently still has some unfinished business in the sport and judging by the level of her confidence and ambitions, she may well finally fulfil her potential after all.

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