Stoke born athlete Ashleigh Nelson was the youngest member of Team GB's athletics team for the Bejing Olympics. The beautiful and talented sprinter is a Hip Hop and R&B fan who's currently Studying for a BA in Fashion Photography at Middlesex University. Having come through some some tough times, she recently returned from injury to win the Aviva Olympic Trials. Mervin Martin caught-up with her to have a quick chat.
What made you choose athletics?
My brother Alex Nelson used to do it at a high level, he's only three years older than me. It's kind of a situation where, when he went track, I wanted to go track.
Out of all the events you could have picked why the 100m?
I used to do a lot of the events, like High Jump and Long Jump and then the more I did them, the more people would tell me what I was better at. It had a lot to do with my build. It got to stage where I used to do cross country but I was just too big for it. I would do it and get really tired. When I was doing the long jump, I found out that I've got a condition called Osgood-Schlatter in my knees. Every time I would hit the Long Jump board it would cause a lot of pain. So I kind of just stuck to sprinting because I was really good at it. I used to swim as well. I was just really big and strong and good at everything. I wasn't much into team sports because I was always very controlling and wanted things my own way.
Have you ever thought about just packing it all in and getting a normal job?
Yeah, I have, I'm not going to lie. If you don't do an indoor season you'll train from October to end of April. Beginning of May you'll start competing and then you compete from May to the end of August, beginning of September. Then you'll have like a month off. Say you train about 46 weeks a year to compete for eight weeks… It's kinda crazy. So if you train for 46 weeks and get injured at a crucial point in the season, you start thinking; "Why am I doing this, why am I putting my body through this?"
You did win the Aviva Athletics Olympic trials but didn't make the team, what's your views on the selection process for the Olympics?
The selectors do their job very well with the guidelines they're given. I won the trials but you have to have a time. If you finish top two in the trials you get to go. I didn't have the qualifying time. Over the last 12 months I've had a lot of injuries. April last year I had an injury but I wasn't diagnosed until November. So in November I saw a surgeon and he told me to take six months out. And as you can imagine, getting told to take six months out with the Olympics just round the corner, I was like, "No I can't do it". So I took four months out, took another scan on my hamstring tendon. The surgeon said "If you want to start training, it's healed a little bit but it's not fully gone." So I started training in March and started competing in May. So to have achieved what I've achieved with three months training, I'm so happy with it.
A lot of people don't realise that, but for me, every time I step off the track and I'm not hurt, I'm like thank god. I think a lot of the critics don't understand. They're quick to judge when they see a performance. But all they see is that performance on the day, on the track, but they don't know what's been going on in the months, the weeks, even the minutes before you get on that track. So that performance is not always the full story.
Before the start of a race do you have any rituals?
I'm a laid-back person who never really screams, shouts or anything like that. I see a sports psychologist. What we had is an issue with me getting up for the race, in the zone. So my psychologist said to me "What makes your adrenaline pump?" I'm sitting there really calm, and he starts raising his voice and I was like don't do that, and he was like why? I start shouting at him and it kind of got my adrenaline going and I just felt like punching him. So now to take my mind off of a race, when the athletes are in the call room I usually think about the fun times i had in Napa with my friend Hannah Frankson when we crashed the 'peds. Just before I take my starting position on the track I shout, scream, slap my legs and slap my face.
What athletes, if any, do you look up to?
When I moved to London three years ago, I started training with Jeanette Kwakye, who came sixth in the BejinG Olympics. She's been a great inspiration to me, she's just so focused but at the same time she can have a laugh. She just knows what she wants and she knows the process of how to get there. I think she's so caring, because in our group, there are seven of us, she's like the mother. If we have a problem we go to her. Unfortunately she missed out on the Olympics as well because she was injured. Even when she couldn't compete in the trials, she would still ring and tell me what I needed to do to win the race.
Do you think the Olympics being held in London has caused the athletes to put more unnecessary pressure on themselves?
I think there's been lot of pressure put on the athletes from the media. But I think the athletes knowing that it's home Olympics and wanting to be there, they put pressure on themselves. But I think the injuries, sometimes they can't be helped. I mean, every sport has its own injures. Especially a sport where you're putting your body through the limit to run or throw as fast as you can. Every time you compete you want to go one better. Say if you break 10 seconds for the first time, your body will react in a certain way because it has never done that before.
Are there any questions that you would have liked me to have asked you?
One thing that people are surprised about is that athletic girls don't just hang around in tracksuits all day. To people who don't realise, I just want to let them know that we're girly girls that go out get our hair done, our nails done, we wear make-up and dresses. Anyway, I want an iPad so if anyone wants to buy me one then holla at your girl.
Follow Ashleigh Nelson on Twitter @AshleighLNelson