WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
After missing out on the World Championship final by an agonising 0.01 margin back in August, 400m hurdler Perri Shakes-Drayton is more determined than ever to make an Olympian impact at the London Games next summer, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 22-year-old hails from the capital, too, making her an ideal poster girl for the biggest sporting event of 2012 and Shakes-Drayton has no intention on missing out on the one lap hurdles final again.
Coached by Chris Zah at Brunel University, the UK champion enjoyed a sublime 2011 campaign in which she registered a 2:08.35 800m personal best after loading the over-distance work in the winter and spring before speeding to an impressive 51.47 400m flat lifetime best in the Rome Diamond League in the early season.
A dominant flat and hurdles double victory at the UK Championships and World trials followed, before a 54.62 season’s best at the Aviva London Grand Prix and a 55.07 clocking for third in the semi-final stage at the global championships in Daegu - where she missed out on a place in the final by just one position.
Although understandably disappointed, Shakes-Drayton consoled herself with the fact that she had consolidated her ninth-place ranking prior to the competition and she picked herself up to lead off the Team GB 4x400m relay team in a strong position before they finished fourth.
“As with every season, 2011 was another progression and I’m just driven and determined to keep improving year on year,” she revealed.
“My training went really well leading up to the World’s - I remained injury-free for the entire season which meant I was in great shape on arrival at the pre-World’s training camp and got some solid work done - despite it pouring down with rain every day!
“My aim was obviously to make the final so to miss out by such a small margin was gutting, however, I used this disappointment and summoned all my competitive spirit for the relay which I thoroughly enjoyed even though we missed out on a medal.”
Despite the business end of her season being lined with frustration, the Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets athlete has evidently made a significant shift up in performance since the summer of 2010.
Then, the former 100m hurdler built on her European under23 title from the previous year to capture a surprise European senior bronze in Barcelona in a breakthrough season in the senior ranks.
Speeding to third on the British all-time lists (behind 1992 Olympic champion Sally Gunnell and 2008 Olympic bronze-medallist Tasha Danvers) with an eye-catching 54.18 lifetime best, Shakes-Drayton then anchored the Team GB relay squad to bronze with a scintillating 49.60 split, which is also the third-fastest ever by a British woman.
Evidently riding on the crest of a wave, the three-time national champion had high hopes for potentially medalling again in South Korea, yet her performance was still a significant improvement on placing seventh in the semi-final in Berlin at the 2009 edition of the event.
Having just returned from a well-deserved holiday in Dubai, Shakes-Drayton is only a few months in to being a full-time athlete after finishing her degree at Brunel University in May, and she intends to use the extra free time to ensure 2012 goes fully to plan.
After narrowly missing out on selection for the 2008 Games in Beijing despite winning the UK Olympic trials, she is eager to toe the line on home turf next summer and make a big impact, to boot:
“The obvious goal is to firstly make the team for selection and once in the team, I need to focus on all aspects of my training, listen to what my coach is telling me and make sure I make that final – once there, anything can happen,” explained Shakes-Drayton.
“I love the competition (in the UK) so as long as we keep producing quality 400m and 400m hurdlers then it keeps us all on our toes!
“To be the best you need to compete against the best, week in, week out.”