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Euro favourite Perri vows to grasp golden opportunity

PUBLISHED: 14:41 15 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:34 05 October 2010

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 10:  Perri Shakes Drayton wins her 400m 1st Round Heat at Alexander Stadium on July 10, 2009 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by John Gichigi/Getty Images)

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 10: Perri Shakes Drayton wins her 400m 1st Round Heat at Alexander Stadium on July 10, 2009 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by John Gichigi/Getty Images)

2009 Getty Images

Perri Shakes-Drayton insists she can handle the pressure of being favourite for 400m hurdles gold at the European Under-23 Championships in Lithuania

By JONATHAN CLEGG

Perri Shakes-Drayton insists she can handle the pressure of being favourite for 400m hurdles gold at the European Under-23 Championships in Lithuania.

Shakes-Drayton, from Poplar, has travelled to Kaunas this week as the leading contender for the title after smashing a string of personal bests this season.

The 20-year-old rocketed to the top of the European rankings with a winning time of 55.34secs at last month's England Under-23 Championships.

And Shakes-Drayton underlined her stunning form at the Aviva World Trials and UK Championships in Birmingham last weekend.

The Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets ace slashed more than a second from her best mark in the 400m to finish runner-up to Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu.

Now she is widely tipped for hurdles glory at this weekend's European Under-23 tournament and Shakes-Drayton vows she will not buckle under the weight of expectation.

"I'm a bit nervous but I'm trying to put that aside," Shakes-Drayton told the Advertiser.

"I've discussed it with my coach [Chris Zah] and I just need to focus on what I've already done to get to the top of the rankings.

"It's been a great season. I've got new personal bests in the 100m, 200m, 400m flat and 400m hurdles, so I feel like I'm hitting my peak at the right time."

Shakes-Drayton's displays this season are set to earn a double berth at next month's World Championships in Germany.

The East End athlete looks certain to contest the 400m hurdles and form part of the British 400m relay squad in Berlin.

Yet Shakes-Drayton has cast aside thoughts of her maiden appearance on the world stage to concentrate on this week's Under-23 challenge in a bid to land a first major title.

She said: "I'm completely focused on the Under-23s now. At my age I'd really like a major title - it would be a massive achievement."

Sprinter Leevan Yearwood is also aiming to make his mark in Lithuania despite a disappointing seventh-place finish at the World Trials following a poor start in the 100m final.

He said: "I's aiming to get the gold. My starts have been a problem all season but the one time I got it right, I ran a [wind-assisted] 10.10secs so that shows what I can do.


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