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Perri on track for Beijing says coach

PUBLISHED: 11:09 05 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:20 05 October 2010

By JONATHAN CLEGG PERRI Shakes-Drayton has made a flying start in the race to qualify for the Beijing Olympics after topping the time sheets at the Bedford International Games last weekend. The Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets star cruised to victory in t

By JONATHAN CLEGG

PERRI Shakes-Drayton has made a flying start in the race to qualify for the Beijing Olympics after topping the time sheets at the Bedford International Games last weekend.

The Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets star cruised to victory in the 400m hurdles in 57.74 seconds at the Bedford Athletics Stadium on Sunday in her first attempt at the event this season.

The result was more than a second outside her personal best, but it was still good enough to outdo a strong field including Danish national record-holder Sara Petersen.

It was also an improvement of more than two seconds on her opening race last year, putting the 19-year-old firmly on course for a new fastest time at the British Olympic trials in July.

Shakes-Drayton, from Poplar, is currently second in the national rankings behind former Olympic finalist Natasha Danvers Smith and coach Chris Zah is convinced she can book a place on the plane to Beijing with a strong performance at the national trials in July.

"She's got a really good chance because she's already got the [Olympic qualifying] B standard time so we've just go to wait for the GB trials next month," said Zah.

"Nothing is going to be decided until the trials but if she can run well there, she'll have a very strong chance of going to Beijing.

"She's still very young for a 400m hurdler but the experience she would get from competing in an Olympic Games would stand her in good stead for the 2012 Olympics, and that's what we're aiming for."

Shakes-Drayton, a former pupil at Bishop Challoner School, will continue her preparations for the Olympic trials when she competes at the South of England Athletic Association championships at Crystal Palace next weekend.

But Zah admits he has been forced to look abroad to find stronger competition for the teenage Olympic hopeful, with a trip to Germany scheduled for later this month.

"There are no girls around good enough to race her so we've got to find her a race abroad this month," he said.

"She opened the season doing the 800m and set a new personal best by more than 10 seconds, and then she ran the 400m flat a couple of times and won both her races.

"She's been doing the 400m just to get her strength up, but she's set a personal best in that too, and hopefully she could be part of the Great Britain 400m relay team as well."

There were encouraging performances from other Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets athletes at Bedford, with Tunde Balogun and Toleme Ezekiel crossing the line second and third in their men's 100m race in 11.02secs and 11.20secs respectively.

Hamin Lubega finished fifth in his men's 200m race in 22.14secs, a result matched by Ashley Wilson in the men's Under-20 110m hurdles in a time of 15.02secs.


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