Steve Roe profiles a young sprinter who is targeting next year’s IAAF World U18 Championships
We are all familiar with the expression “Mother knows best”. But is that right? Does she? Vera Chinedu has no doubt whatsoever – the answer is ‘yes’.
Up until 2013 the talented teenage sprinter had competed many times in many places and with some success. But then her mum firmly suggested she was good enough to set her sights higher and take part in bigger and more important events – and be a regular prizewinner moreover.
Mrs Esther Chinedu clearly had foresight, because the following winter her daughter won an England indoor championship.
“I began to think that my mum was right,” says Vera, who has not looked back ever since.
The Nigeria-born athlete showed early promise and recalls races held at her first English primary school by saying: “I always managed to beat the boys in the sprints.”
Later, at another primary school, a teacher gave her what turned out to be sound and accurate advice.
“He told me I was fast and had a talent,” she remembers.
Living in Charlton at the time – she’s now by the Thames on the Greenwich Peninsula – it made sense for Vera to join Cambridge Harriers, where first she was happy to take part in a variety of the club’s internal championships.
In early 2013 Vera scored her first significant victory, a 60m event at Lee Valley. Now, over this distance, as well as 100m, she tops the British under-17 rankings for 2016.
All of her 60m victories last winter – and indeed everything before then – had been achieved under the guidance of Mark Lancaster. Recently, however, in a move Vera felt was integral to her development, she changed coaches and is now trained by Ryan Freckleton.
Some of the sessions with Vera’s new coach take place, she explains, at Lee Valley, with others near St Albans and yet more at the school where Freckleton works and which Vera has just joined.
Plyometrics, gym work and massage therapy are included in the training, but obviously sprinting is the more significant feature.
“If I’m running fast and well in training it suggests I’m in good shape but not burning myself out,” she says. “There are about 8-10 of us training with Ryan and we all get on.”
Jodie Williams, who is also coached by Freckleton, and Joey Duck have trained with Vera and she says: “I really enjoyed being in the company of such elite athletes.”
As for Vera’s championship season, it has progressed well since an unhappy start at the Kent Championships. She recalls: “There was a long hold by the starter. Everyone was twitching and I thought ‘what is happening?’”.
What actually happened was that after the gun was fired, there was no call back. “I was left sitting in the blocks watching a race I might have won,” she says.
There will of course be another chance in Kent next year, and on the global stage too, for one of Vera’s targets is a place at the IAAF World U18 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.
Thinking longer-term, this outstanding sprinter would like to do something in the media.
“Actually I would love to be involved with Athletics Weekly,” she says. “It’s a fantastic magazine.”
You can find further performance stats on Vera on Power of 10 here.
» Support young athletes via the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, see rpmf.org.uk