The talented hurdler tells AW how a broken collarbone threatened her season
Having set a UK age 19 best of 56.05 to place fourth at the European Under-23 Championships in Tallinn, an outsider could be forgiven for thinking 400m hurdler Shona Richards has enjoyed a smooth path since claiming silver at the World Juniors last year. However, the resilient 20-year-old had overcome a broken collarbone in April, thus making her achievements, which also saw her finish 2015 third in the UK senior rankings, all the more impressive.
“I will not lie and say the season has been easy. It has been an emotional rollercoaster but was my first insight into how you need to be strong mentally as an athlete,” says Shona. “After the accident it took me a while to get over a hurdle, let alone run at speed into one again.”
However, the Windsor, Slough, Eton athlete quickly improved and again showed she is an athlete who rises to the occasion of a major championship, producing her best in the final in Tallinn to just miss a medal by one hundredth of a second.
Reflecting on her year, Shona explains: “I set myself up well in winter, hitting better times than before. In April, the initial plan was to go to Spain warm weather training, fly out to America to train in Baylor with Coach Clyde Hart and Sanya Richards-Ross and open up at the Michael Johnsons Classic. However, out in Spain I clipped a hurdle, fell and broke my collarbone. I suffered from concussion so I was not allowed to get surgery straight away. Therefore, I still went to America. It was hard to watch my training partner run alongside some incredible athletes whilst I had to sit on the sidelines with a little back brace on.”
“I will not lie and say the season has been easy. It has been an emotional rollercoaster but was my first insight into how you need to be strong mentally as an athlete”
It led to Shona reassessing her goals for the year. “I didn’t really know what was going to happen after my accident and whether I would even be able to race this year, so to go to Tallinn and perform well, I’m over the moon. I was slightly gutted with how close I was to both second and third, but 56.05 is a huge achievement in itself and I am happy to have run the Olympic standard,” she adds.
Shona was disappointed she could not go to the World Championships, due to UK Athletics’ policy of not allowing athletes to double up. Instead, she improved her 400m PB to 53.64 and took a rest to get herself back feeling good again ready to start training for the Europeans and Olympics next year. “I have a lot of essential work to do in relation to my technique,” says Shona.
Coached by Marina Armstrong, Shona trains six times a week. Following in the footsteps of British 100m and 200m record-holder Dina Asher-Smith and European junior 400m champion Laviai Nielsen, she has just started studying Global Health and Medicine at Kings College London. A favourite cuisine among many athletes, it is fitting that Shona has also worked part-time at Nandos.
In relation to her development path as an athlete, it is clear Shona has the desire to succeed. “I love athletics, especially 400m hurdles, as you never really know what will happen and I suppose it is a bit of an obstacle course. I can’t imagine myself doing many other events,” she explains.
You can find further performance stats on Shona on Power of 10 here.
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