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Shakes-Drayton to quit hurdles for 400m on flat

ESPN staff
December 3, 2013 « Northern Ireland's Healy announces retirement | Chartbeat test »
Perri Shakes-Drayton finished seventh in the 400m hurdles final at the World Championships © PA Photos
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Perri Shakes-Drayton has likely run her last hurdles race with the serious knee injury she suffered at the World Championships set to see her switch to sprinting 400m on the flat.

The 24-year-old's medal chances in Moscow were wrecked when she tore her posterior cruciate ligament and cartilage in her left knee in the 400m hurdles final, eventually finishing seventh.

Shakes-Drayton has only recently begun walking again without the aid of crutches, and though her rehabilitation is going well her coach Chris Zah revealed she has been taking advice from former hurdlers who suffered the same injury.

"The main guy I've been speaking to is [former Commonwealth 110m hurdles champion] Tony Jarrett," Zah told the Daily Telegraph. "He came back from the same injury but his trail leg was never the same. He found he couldn't really use it as he was using it before.

"If you have a brick and you keep drilling away it at it bit by bit, in the end there's going to be a big hole there. That's exactly what happened.

"There were eight pieces, eight fragments, inside her knee that the surgeon had to take away. It might have been chipping away for years and years and then the last piece holding the bone together finally came away.

"Just before the final in Moscow, as we were warming up, she said, 'the back of my knee feels numb'. Straight away we got the physio and the doctor on to it, and he released it. But when I got back home and spoke to guys who had that injury before, they said they had exactly the same symptoms at the back of their knee."

Shakes-Drayton's problem stems from the impact suffered by her left leg each time it hits the ground. "It also affects the speed at which hurdlers can pull their trail leg through," said Zah. "That's really important for a speedster like Perri.

"From my point of view as a coach, I just feel that's enough for now. We've been training for a long time and we always said she had to do the 400 flat as well as the hurdles, and she can, so we're in a really good position of being able to pick and choose.

"The training is there for both events. She has got speed. It's not just about galloping and getting over hurdles. She's got speed as well."

Shakes-Drayton posted the fastest indoor time in the world this year when she won March's European indoor 400m title in Gothenburg in 50.85 seconds. In June, she also lowered her outdoor personal best to 50.50s at the European Team Championships in Gateshead.

Zah said: "She's world class at the 400 flat as well the hurdles and we know she can go [close to] 49 seconds if she has a full season at it."

The change ends Shakes-Drayton's bid to break Sally Gunnell's British 400m hurdles record of 52.74s, that has stood for 20 years. Shakes-Drayton's lifetime best is 53.67s, set in the Olympic Stadium in July at the London Anniversary Games.

"I feel sad because that's what we've been working on," said Zah. "We've been trying to break the British record for a long time and we were on the verge of that. Maybe we can work hard and go for it on the flat, and if Christine [Ohuruogu] is still running, then it could be a great rivalry."

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