Could fund your dream, on your own, for seven years? That is what 800 meter runner Shelayne Oksan-Clarke did, and Stuart Weir explains her patience and strong belief in herself. Shelayna took second in the Muller Anniversary Games on Sunday in the Olympic stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Shelayna Oskan-Clarke, the British 800m runner, is an athlete I admire. In the London Anniverary Games, she came second behind Charlene Lipsey in 1:59.82. She said afterwards: “I need to work on my form – that was a messy race and I should have been up there, but I was strong at the end. It was a great atmosphere with a huge crowd providing such good support to the Brits. That wasn’t a great race for me but it was a season’s best; now I might try to get another race in because I know I can go quicker. I feel like the work is in there; I just need to get it out – hopefully in time for London”.
That is a typical reaction from a very analytical athlete, who always seems to get the balance right between self-confidence and arrogance, constructive analysis and self-criticism. It is something she is aware of as she told me: “In the past couple of months I have realized that I can be too critical and I am trying to work on my critical voice. I like to analyse my performance. So I try to analyse, reflect on it and then try to move on and input that into the next race”.
Earlier this year she came second to Selina BÃ¼chel of Switzerland in the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade by one hundredth of a second, a bitter-sweet moment: “Initially I was a bit annoyed but I know I gave it my best on the day. Again I learnt a lot about how strong I am. I should have gone a bit earlier; I think I left it too late”.
Oskan-Clarke came to a lot of people’s attention in 2015 when she ran 1:58:99 to take fifth place in the World Championships, having run 1:58:86 (a PR) in the semi-final. What a lot of people don’t know is that she ran for England in the Commonwealth Youth Games in India in 2008, aged 18, but did not get selected for a major championship for seven years when, in 2015, she was involved in the European Indoors as well as the World Championships.
She explains: “One of the reasons I stuck at it seven years – quite a long time – was that I knew I had potential to be one of the best in the world. So Beijing 2015 wasn’t a surprise to me. I was more happy and relieved that it had come out but for a lot of people it was as if I had just rocked up! And all the sacrifice – working and travelling to training – all paid off”.
In Britain there are currently 70 athletes on funding – as Podium or Potential, that Oskan-Clarke funded herself for seven years in order to pursue her dream is impressive and adds to our pleasure in that she is now at home in the elite level.