British 800m champion Shelayna Oskan-Clarke looking to make her mark in London after finishing fifth at the 2015 World Championships
When Shelayna Oskan-Clarke came fifth in the 400m in the Commonwealth Youth Games in India in 2008, it seemed her athletics career was up and running.
However, she had to wait seven years before being selected for her first senior championship.
She is very honest about that period, as she remembers: “The transition from junior level to senior level seemed to take a while. I went to the Youth Commonwealth for the 400m and I think my PB was 54.3 and I don’t think I ran another PB. I was more of a strong 400m runner – not the fastest – and I didn’t really progress.”
While others may have had doubts, Oskan-Clarke’s self-belief never wavered. In 2015 she ran for GB in the European Indoor Championships but made little impression and then ran 1:58:99 to finish fifth in the World Championships in Beijing, having run a 1:58:86 PB in the semi-final.
The 2015 season was a vindication of her self-belief, as 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.”
Interestingly, Oskan-Clarke looks back to her disappointing performance at the European Indoors as a launch pad: “That year was a turning point for me. I came back from the Indoors really disappointed – more because of my performance than the time. I let the other girls dictate the race for me in the heat and the outcome was not for me.
“I vowed to myself that from that day I was not going to go into a race and let people dictate but I was going to go into a race and do what I wanted to do. That was the turning point for me because it was not my performance and it wasn’t my fitness that was letting me down; it was a lot more psychological or just needing to be more confident.”
Without being everyone’s favourite, Oskan-Clarke won the British 800m title in 2016 and 2017 but she is always looking for more. She says: “I am very critical of myself. In the past couple of months I have realised 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,” she adds.
London World Championships, she says: “London 2017 will be kind of like another Olympics. Obviously I didn’t compete in 2012. I just watched so competing is going to be a different experience. Just to have the crowd support and everyone in there willing you on, will be a great opportunity and I just want to do my country proud.”
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