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awesome august for ashleigh

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Ashleigh Nelson

For Ashleigh Nelson, 2014 has been by far the most successful season of her young career, where she claimed the European 100m bronze medal last month, along with a gold medal and a national record as part of the 4x100m relay team. It has been an especially rewarding summer for the Stoke athlete whose promising junior career is finally delivering senior success.

Nelson contributes a lot of her success this year to staying in good shape and producing consistent times over the summer, which is no easy feat. Her good form has translated into medals and she is delighted to get the rewards for her hard work.

“The season has been great – I wanted to come out and technically execute my races, which would enable me to get the times I know I’ve always been capable of but because of injuries I haven’t been able to reach my potential.

“Technically I’ve developed a lot and grown as an athlete this season. It hasn’t come as a great surprise with the times I have been running but it’s been amazing to be running so consistently and compete against some of the very best athletes in the world.”

The improvements paid off in Zurich where Nelson achieved the bronze medal on the second night of the championships where GB & NI won three gold medals. She spoke of her excitement about realising her potential and transferring it into medal success.

“My coach and I spoke at the start of the season about aiming for the European Championships. Everything we aimed for, we managed to do. Going into the final my coach said ‘just execute your race and you’ll get the outcome that you want’.

“It was amazing to win an individual medal – it’s been a long time coming. I was quite a good junior but injuries have set me back so it was nice to finally achieve something individually. It’s nice to get that medal and shows I can compete for them on an international stage, not just a domestic one.”

On the training she’s done to get to this point, Nelson commented:

“I’ve just been able to pick things off quicker this year technically. We do a lot of work on breaking down the different parts of the race. My start still has a few things which need changing. However, I think a lot of it is down to my physique – I’ve been quite light this season and it has paid off. Females and their diets are never easy but it’s something I have been able to nail this year.”

“It’s never been a case of pushing myself even harder in training – it’s been about keeping myself in one piece. If you ask anyone in my training group, I’ll be the one who turns up and gives in 100% every day. I think that’s why this season has been so great for me because it’s alright me saying to you, ‘I work really hard’, but then every summer, there are no results to show for it because I get injured. So it’s nice that I’ve got the results this year to back up all the hard work.”

Nelson has also been a key figure in the 4x100m relay team that broke the long standing British record twice this year, most recently at the Zurich Diamond League meeting just last week. The time of 42.21 bettered the time that saw the team win gold medal at the European championships on the same track a couple of weeks earlier. Nelson, who has run the second leg on both occasions, is proud to be part of such a talented squad at an exciting time for female British sprinting.

“It’s amazing – all the girls have run really well this season. It’s almost contagious. When one person is running fast, someone else runs fast. It’s because you want to be competitive and you want to raise your game. It’s good that we are getting the same recognition that the male sprinters have been getting, for achieving a greater task you might say. It’s very exciting to be part of such a talented quartet and squad – there aren’t only four of us, there are four more athletes fighting to get in the team as well.”

Nelson will again be reunited with those girls at the Continental Cup in Marrakesh later this month in what will be her final race of the 2014. She admits that some of the sacrifices that have gone into achieving her success are hard, but it has been worth it for all the support she has received.

“I’m always saying to my friends ‘I can’t come out because I’m training in the morning’. Sometimes I think they think I’m pretending to be an athlete and they don’t believe me. This year I’ve had so much support from friends and people at college and university, and I think they are starting to believe I am an athlete now!”

Next year, Nelson’s aim will be to qualify for the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, but she is all too aware of the tough opposition she and her British team mates will face in the Birds Nest Stadium.

“I think for a lot of the Americans it has been a down year in 2014 so they are going to come back fresh. So the challenge for British female sprinters will be to keep the intensity up and raise it.”

There is no doubt that 2015 will offer another challenge, but after the most successful European Championships ever for a British team, there are plenty of reasons to be positive about what the future holds. Nelson hopes that the success of the team will continue as support for the sport increases further.

“The support everyone has been getting this year has been great. It’s bringing athletics back into the limelight again. The better we do, the more people will come to watch us compete. It’s great for the sport because we work so hard to maintain the top class performances.”