Perri Shakes Drayton announced her retirement. The fine British athlete spoke eloquently about the pain in retiring, giving light to a very emotional time for athletes of all levels. Stuart Weir wrote this 2 part piece on this fine athlete.
Prime Minister Theresa May with Perri Shakes Drayton, photo by Getty Images / British Athletics
Perri Shakes Drayton
Following the recent retirement of the British athlete, Perri Shakes-Drayton, someone asked on Twitter which of Perri’s races was your favorite? A great question. I have got it down to three and as I have seen her run 60 times, I had a few to choose from! There is so much to say about her. It was really a career of two halves – athletic brilliance and then superhuman courage and endurance. It is sad to see her career end at 31 and even sadder to think that her elite career effectively ended when she was just 25.
2013 is the year that remember her best. There was that amazing run to European Indoor gold in Goteburg. I mean, really, you are a professional hurdler and you enter the 400 flat just to work on your speed and you take on Europe’s best quarter-milers and beat the lot of them. Then you go to the European Team championships as GB team captain, run the 400m flat again. And why not win the race and set a championship record which – I believe – still stands.
Perri was a serial 4 by 400 meters relay medalist, winning silver at the 2017 World Championships, silver at the 2010 European Championships, gold at the 2013 European Indoor Championships and the unforgettable gold at the 2012 World Indoors in Istanbul. Now everybody knows that USA always wins the 4 by 400 relay so Britain is running for second place. However, in Istanbul it seems the GB squad had not had the memo. Shana Cox and Nicola Sanders gave Britain a solid start but Christine Ohuruogu started the third leg in fourth place. Running a brilliant leg Ohuruogu gave Shakes-Drayton the baton in the lead – shame she was up against a modern legend of the event, Sanya Richards-Ross! Shakes-Drayton had the lead and held the lead as first Russia and then USA tried to pass her. On the final straight Richards-Ross seemed to have the legs on her but heroically Perri held her position to win by 3 hundredths of a second. Just the most exciting race I have ever seen. Being a professional, dispassionate athletics writer…I screamed and punched the air.
Then when you have finishing “playing” at the 400 flat in 2013, you head for the World Championships in Moscow in your real event, the 400H. Shortly before the World Champs, you run 53.67. Among British hurdlers only Sally Gunnell, 1992 Olympic Champion, has run faster. In Moscow you run the fastest time in the heats, you run the second fastest time in the semi-finals – a time which would have taken silver in the final. Because of what happened in the final, her amazing run in the semi-final tends to be forgotten. She won her semi-final in 53.92. Only Zuzana Hejnova in the two semi-finals ran faster. I was at the time and still remain totally convinced that had the injury not occurred, PSD would have been on the podium with a medal round her neck.
But then tragedy. She set off fast in the final but then felt something in her knee. She managed to complete the race in seventh place. The seriousness of the injury then emerged: damaged cartilage in the knee and a torn posterior cruciate ligament.
To be continued