WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Despite an enforced month-long rest through injury last summer, 400m hurdler Meghan Beesley bounced back to reach the Commonwealth Games final, leaving the university student with a taste for more championship selection, writes Nicola Bamford.
It was in Delhi last October when the 21-year-old Birchfield Harrier made her senior international championship debut for Team England over the one-lap barriers to finish a highly-respectable seventh in 58.36.
Evidently fatigued from the previous day’s heat, where she registered a swift 56.95 to qualify, Beesley competed as her nation’s sole representative in the event and went on to clock a relay lifetime best of 52.48 in the 4x400m final, helping England to the silver medals.
Her performances in India were a far cry from her days in rehabilitation two months prior:
“I was happy with running personal bests and with our silver medal in the 4x400m however, I did find my season frustrating because I had two major injuries so I felt that had I not missed so much training, I could have ran faster over the hurdles,” Beesley explained.
“I was pleased with my performance in the heat in Delhi but in the final, I didn’t perform as well as I should have due to lack of stamina after my injuries. However, I can draw a lot from the fact that I was in the final at a major championships so I now know what to expect.”
Indeed, the Loughborough University student – in her third year of four on the Maths with Sports Science course – has shown many glimmers of potential in the past three seasons, experiencing many international meetings to hone her skills as a senior.
Starting her athletic career as a heptathlete, Beesley captured five national medals between 2005 and 2008 and can also boast nine national medals in her specialist event to date.
After placing sixth in the hurdles and second in the relay in the 2007 European juniors, the bubbly blonde went onto achieve her greatest accomplishment yet – bronze in the 2008 World junior championships.
Keen to build on her momentum, Beesley could only reach the semi-final stage of the European under23 championships the following year but aged only nineteen and having recently started university and changed coach, she was still on an upward curve.
“I am most proud of my World junior medal,” Beesley revealed, “Although, when I ran the 400m flat in 52.91 in Los Angeles last March, I was so happy with the time I screamed when I heard it announced. I didn’t expect to run such a big personal best and the race didn’t feel particularly quick.”
Coached by Nick Dakin at her East Midlands base and sponsored by Nike, Beesley enjoyed more pleasing performances other than on her American adventure in 2010.
Firstly, at the turn of the year, she equalled her indoor 60m hurdles best of 8.60 at the Loughborough Open then improved her 400m best by almost one second at the LA meeting.
Then, following victory in the British university championships and second place at the Loughborough International, Beesley took half a second off her lifetime best in her specialist event in France at the end of June with 56.65 before securing silver in the Aviva European trials and UK championships before disaster struck, courtesy of a stress fracture then tearing her quadriceps muscle.
While her biggest rival, Perri Shakes-Drayton – the winner of the British title - went on to capture European bronze in Barcelona last July, Beesley meanwhile, was reduced to the sidelines in a battle to reach fitness in time for Delhi – a battle which she fortunately won.
“My closest rivals are based at either end of the country so I don’t come into contact with them except at major competitions,” Beesley explained.
“400m hurdles is such a strong event currently on both the men’s and women’s side - it’s really good to have people such as Perri, Tasha (Danvers-Smith) and Eilidh (Child) who are winning medals at major champs - it keeps me striving to achieve what they have done.”
After recently returning from holiday in Tenerife, Beesley is back to her studies and training hard for the summer without the distraction of the current indoor season.
“Being at Loughborough is really good as my lectures are only a five-minute walk from training so it’s easy to combine lectures and training,” Beesley revealed.
“I have only been with my current coach - Nick - for two years. (From working with him) I now feel that I have really benefited and my overall fitness has vastly improved.”
With the London 2012 Olympics only eighteen months away, her progression is timely and Beesley would love to be included:
“I hope to be competing at major championships in a competitive way for as many years as I can.
Winning medals is obviously something that I am hoping for in the next few years as I mature within the event and I love travelling, so would also hope to be competing around the world in the IAAF Diamond League events.”