Pro Focus: Jeanette Kwakye
Having reached the 100m finals at the 2008 Olympics, Jeanette Kwakye is coming to take London 2012 by the you-know-whats and come away draped in medals – and it’s a feat much deserved for the East London track star who’s suffered her fair share of injury. Now fighting fit and more focused than ever before, she talks to Spikes about training, inspiring young girls and those abs.
- How did you get into running?
I knew from a very young age that I was faster than most other kids. It wasn’t until I was 13 when my teacher suggested I head to my loco track and field club in Walthamstow, East London.
- When did you decide to go pro or was it just a natural progression?
A bit of both really. I remember being at uni, just after leaving the junior age group. I went to Loughborough uni which is obsessed with sport, so in that sense it was quite natural. However I still remember applying for media jobs at the BBC just before I graduated, as I still wasn’t sure.
- What’s been your career highlight to date?
Olympic final in 2008, was a massive deal for me. No woman had done that since 1984!
- What’s your hardest session of the week?
Anything speed endurance based makes me so nervous. I’m useless if I have to run for more than 30 seconds at a fast pace. So doing 300m reps with short recovery is hell.
- What motivates you?
My desire to be the best and realise my potential. My family and my boyfriend. My ability to hopefully inspire young girls!
- What are your goals?
To break records, break ground and go better than I have done in previous years.
- You’re Olympics bound this summer – what is your main training focus in the lead up?
Staying healthy is my main focus. A healthy, fit and motivated athlete is a dangerous one in any event.
- How do you mentally prepare for a race?
So much goes into the physical factor, people often forget about training the brain. I believe you have to trick your body into believing that it can do the ‘impossible’. The brain is so powerful and I never underestimate the psychology of sport.
- How much of a factor do you think your mindset is on race day?
Huge. My best example is the Olympics. The fastest woman in the world going into the games, came last in the final. It is important that your mindset mirrors your goals as much as possible.
- What are the factors that help you perform at your best?
I think my main characteristics are my ability to be constantly competitive and never forgetting the fundamental factor of performing to WIN. It’s my ethos, I always want to be best prepared.
- Spikes and Heels is all about channeling your inner badass – how do you channel your badass every day?
I have to remind myself what my strengths are. Believe it or not elite athletes have bad days, your attitude determines how you are able to bounce back. I have had some serious injury issues, so that has made me stronger. I’m now as bad as they come.
- Your abs are dangerous – how have you got them in such good shape?
Thanks. I have a very low body fat percentage. My diet is strict and combined with my running it reveals those bad boys that are my abs. My coach is a stickler for ab circuits, so a minimum of 300 sit ups a day.
- Do you have any top training tips for anyone looking to increase their speed?
Weights, weights, weights. Speed is all about power you don’t have to lift heavy weight, but your muscles must learn to recruit fast twitch fibres, good weights programmes are great for this
- What do you think about the general attitude to women’s fitness in the UK and how we can get more young women involved in sports?
I am very vocal on this issue and I work in schools so I see problems from grass roots. We don’t live in a society where exercise is encouraged and this is really sad, as we lose so much talent at school level. I believe that the solution lies at grassroots level and we have to radically change the way we teach PE and how females in sport are perceived in the media. More role models would be great.
- What do you do on your downtime?
My Boyfriend! I always have energy to do exciting things like restaurants and films, I leave the poor man tired.
To keep up with the Olympic adventures of Jeanette, follow her on Twitter @JnetteKwakye