Perri tipped to join British elite
London 2012 hopeful Perri Shakes-Drayton has been tipped to become a leading star of British athletics this year
By JONATHAN CLEGG
London 2012 hopeful Perri Shakes-Drayton has been tipped to become a leading star of British athletics this year by a group of former Olympic medallists.
Shakes-Drayton, from Poplar, has been named as a potential headline-grabber by former triple jumper Jonathan Edwards, sprinter Darren Campbell, 400m runner Katharine Merry and javelin ace Steve Backley in a list of athletes to watch in 2009.
The 20-year-old won the national 400m hurdles title at the Olympic trials in Birmingham last year, but was narrowly pipped for a place in Beijing by Tasha Danvers, who went on to win a bronze medal in China.
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Yet Shakes-Drayton has been backed to put that disappointment behind her and establish herself as the country's No1 hurdler this year following an encouraging start to the season.
The East End athlete produced a run of 7.44secs to claim the 60m sprint title at the South of England indoor championships last month - an improvement of a quarter of a second on her time the previous year.
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Though she finished sixth in the national finals in Sheffield, which doubled as the European Indoor Championship trials, her impressive speed over the short distance is certain to have impressed new UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee.
Former Olympic 400m bronze medallist Merry also believes that Shakes-Drayton's impressive speed in the indoor sprint event is a positive sign.
Merry said: "If she carries on getting her speed up it could be a great year. She improves every time she runs.
"Her 7.44secs in 60m is good for a sprinter, let alone a 400m hurdler. She's got 2012 written all over her being born and bred in Poplar."
Shakes-Drayton has enjoyed an irresistible rise since winning the England Schools Championships in a UK record time four years ago.
Now sprint ace Campbell, who won a gold medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, believes the Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets runner is capable of making the transition from promising talent to top-level performer.
He said: "She's making the transition from junior to senior and the world is her oyster.
"Tasha Danvers went to Beijing instead [last year] but I hope they inspire each other on. After beating her last year, Perri needs to think 'she's never beating me again'.