THIS year has convinced Perri Shakes-Drayton that she is not out of place among the best athletes in the world.
Next year will be about proving she has what it takes to beat them – and it will all begin in Glasgow.
The Londoner, who celebrated her 24th birthday yesterday, will take part in the British Athletics International Match in the city’s new Emirates Arena on Saturday 26 January. It will be a first ever individual 400-metre race indoors for the one-lap hurdler, and her first visit to Scotland.
Shakes-Drayton enjoyed exceptional indoor form this year, winning world championship relay gold in Istanbul, but her outdoor season fell short of her hopes when she just failed to reach the Olympic final. Her aim this year is to get off to a flying start indoors then continue that form all the way through to the world championships outdoors, in Moscow in August.
“I showed in my other races last season that I was definitely capable of mixing it with the best in the world, so I was disappointed not to get past the semi-finals at London 2012,” she said. “But I’ve put that disappointment behind me now and I’m using it as motivation to perform even better in 2013.
“This year it has sunk in that I am a contender at world level and the belief has come,” continued the Englishwoman, who will also compete at the British Athletics Grand Prix in Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena on 16 February. “Being amongst the best in the world has given me confidence.
“That performance in Istanbul gave me a lot of confidence as well, but the relay is so different because it’s a team effort. In Glasgow and Birmingham I’ll have to go out there and prove myself on my own.
“I’ve run a lot of relay legs indoors, but competing in the individual 400m will be a new experience for me. Glasgow and Birmingham attract some of the best in the world so I can’t wait to get out and test myself in a really tough race.
“More than anything, these two races are a great chance to compete in front of some loud British crowds again. The Olympics brought such excitement to people and showed how much this country loves athletics. The interest from the British crowd is phenomenal and our big indoor competitions are always special events, with packed arenas.
“I’ve never been to Scotland before, and coming up to Glasgow will also give me the chance to get a look at the Commonwealth Park. Competing in my first ever Commonwealth Games in 2014 is another big target on my radar.”
If she is to win a Commonwealth title in 2014, Shakes-Drayton will have to see off the home challenge of Eilidh Child, a 400m hurdles silver medallist in Delhi two years ago. The pair have been rivals for some time, but the competition has been of mutual benefit as well.
“It’s great to have Eilidh to push me on. She’s a magnificent athlete, and I think it’s been helpful to both of us having someone else in the same country at the same level.”
• Tickets for the 2013 British Athletics Series are available at www.uka.org.uk