After missing the Olympic final, Perri's mental strength pulled her through. Get her top tips to beat a setback
This year, 23-year-old athlete Perri Shakes-Drayton made her Olympic debut.
As cover star of our London 2012 issue - alongside velodrome-veteran Victoria Pendleton and super-swimmer Kerri-Anne Payne - London-born 400m hurdler Perri was among the ones to watch at London 2012.
But Perri's Olympics ended in disappointment, as a hamstring injury got the better of her.
After narrowly missing out on a place in the finals, salt was firmly rubbed into the wounds when Czech athlete Denisa Rosolova was disqualified for running out of her lane and Perri was awarded a spot in the final. Then Rosolova successfully appealed and Perri was left on the sidelines.
‘I was a semi-finalist but I should have been in that final. My Olympics didn’t go the way I’ve have dreamt it would have gone,’ she says.
But Perri refused to wilt. ‘I knew I had a relay to do and I had to play my part, so in a short space of time I had to switch on. They said my hamstring wasn’t too serious so I had to go out there and do whatever I could. I’m a team player.’
‘Sport can be really cruel at times. It did take me a while to get over it but I knew I had to pick myself up and get over it.’
Just weeks after the Olympics, Perri put in a tremendous performance at the Diamond League Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham, which re-instilled her confidence and motivation. ‘I competed really well there; getting close to my PBs. To finish on a high gave me that extra motivation to carry on training.'
Perri lives by simple rules to boost her mental strength through the toughest of times. ‘Don’t dwell on it! I do reminisce and have thoughts about what happened [during the Olympics] but there’s nothing I can do about it.’
‘Set yourself little minor goals that will personally satisfy yourself,’ she advises.
Perri started in athletics aged 11 and joined a Mile End club and Victoria Park Harriers aged 13, but admits she wasn’t a born winner. 'I was never very good at the long distance stuff but I’d always set myself personal goals. I’d still say to myself things like, “I want be the first girl across the line from Tower Hamlets”.'
Although a full-time professional athlete, Perri still sets small day-by-day milestones that aid her training. ‘For example, press-ups are the worst thing for me. These little arms of mine are so weak. But I’ll break it down and aim for three. Then next time I’ll do five.’
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Embarking on her athletics career, Perri would train in a large group. As she got older and her performance excelled, her training got more specific and the group got smaller.
She still rates team training, which not only offers extra encouragement, it provides a little friendly competition. ‘I have competitors out there and I know they could be training even harder. I can’t be lazy. I can’t have silly excuses as to why I’m not going training. I make training my priority. If you’re cheating yourself you won’t perform.’
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‘I do lots of running and squats. My legs are what get me around the track so I’ve got to love them and look after them.
‘I train in the morning, so before I head out I’ll always have a bowl of porridge or muesli and a tea. Coming back I’ll have a banana or make myself a smoothie. I’m always peckish so instead of going for a chocolate bar I’ll always carry a bag of nuts. At about 5.00pm I’ll have my main meal, which is when I stock up on carbs, protein (I love prawns) and a bit of veg. I hate veg but - like training - you can't enjoy doing, but you’ve got to do it because it’s going to benefit you.'
Ok, so Perri isn’t a complete machine. The one guilty pleasure that gets the better of her is ‘custard and cake! I’ll be specific: ginger cake.’
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Perri is sponsored by Nike, who lead the way in sports technology and apparel innovation. ‘Since all this new technology came out such as Nike+ I’d just use a stopwatch. Now you can track your progress. It makes me conscious of my daily activity.’
Nike has now teamed up with Xbox to launch Nike+ Kinect Training, which provides personalized training in your home.
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