Jeanette Kwakye is looking to land her place on the GB athletics team after battling back from serious injury after her superb performance in Beijing four years ago.
She is also working with Ariel on the Capital Clean Up campaign and I caught up with her to talk about that as well as her preparations for this summer’s Olympic Games.
- You are working with Ariel on the P&G Capital Clean Up campaign so can you tell me a little bit about it?
The P&G Capital Clean Up campaign is all about making London looks it's best and so by the time that we do get to the Games London does look really nice.
The worst thing we would want is international people to arrive and think 'oh London is disgusting and awful' so it's all about getting people to volunteer and pick a particular area and really clean it up to make it lovely for the Games.
- You will be heading into a few of the boroughs in London over the next couple of weeks so what are you going to be doing when you get there?
I will be heading to Waltham Forest, Camden, Brent and Lambeth.
Waltham Forest is where I am actually from so that should be a bit of a laugh as I have a go at my neighbours for dropping a packet of crisps on the floor.
There will be certain hotspots in each borough that I will be helping to clean up and I know that I am helping to paint over some graffiti.
- If people want to get out in the community and help how can they do that?
All you have to do is go to the website www.pgcapitalcleanup.com. You can vote for the place that you want to get clean up and the area with the most votes will get cleaned up by Ariel. You can volunteer and find out more information on the website as well.
- Olympic fever is now beginning to kick in so how excited are you for the prospect of a home games?
Very excited. We have known about the home Olympics for about seven years now and so we have had a long time to get excited about it.
But what we are very excited about is the fact that it is now very very close and the athletes are staring to limber up for the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games so we are all really excited.
- The Olympic flame hit British soil last week so how real did that suddenly make everything?
I remember when I competed in Beijing I didn’t really follow the Olympic torch travelling anywhere but now it is in London I am excited to see who is jogging around with it and I have seen a few celebs running around with it.
My mum is actually doing it as well so it’s going to be funny to switch on the TV and see my mum - I have made her get fit for it as well so there will be now stopping half way (laughs). - So what kind of shape are you in at the moment and how has winter training gone for you?
Winter training is great and I had a decent indoor season, which is always nice as you can use it as a benchmark and see what you need to work on for the rest of the year.
I have just come back from a trip abroad, I did four weeks in the USA and two weeks in Portugal, so I have topped up on my tan and got some really good work in.
So we are just going to have to see as I will begin racing in a couple of weeks so I will be able to really lay it down and get some confidence for the rest of the season.
- You have touched on my next question you and few of the other GB athletes have been training in the States recently so how did you find your time out there?
I always love training in the USA, it’s my second time out there in the last six months, I do try to go there so I can get the quality training in with the weather.
The main thing is to stay away from all the fatty foods that are there to tempt you but it’s always great fun and great training facilities. But you can’t stay out there forever and it’s nice to come home as well.
- Where are you in your training at the moment and how will that change as the trials and the Olympics get closer?
At the moment I am training at the high performance centre at Edmonton at this centre has been designated to us throughout the whole of the summer, so there won’t be any other countries coming here. So this is to be our training base and that is really nice.
Ahead of the Olympic Games the GB athletics team will fly out to Portugal, where I have just come back from, to get a good couple of weeks in there away from all the press, media and all the pressures to get ready and we will come back a few days before we are due to compete.
- And the trials are now just a few weeks away so how confident are you ahead of that event and are you close to the qualifying time?
I am the reigning champion from last year so I am the girl to beat and that is tough because I have to stay ahead of the rest of the pack.
I like to think that I am confident ahead of that but there are a few more session that I would really like to nail before I go into that. But I really do want to go there and show everyone that I am a contender.
- You have touched on this slightly already being a home Games and being a British athlete everyone’s eyes are going to be on you and the rest of the GB team so how are you coping with that pressure?
Ooohhhh (laughs) it’s going ok and I am ok. I am use to being the person who people know is there but no one expects to much from me but this year people are like ’you did so well at the lat Olympics you have got to go better this time’ which is great.
As an athlete that pressure can lift you up and I like to think when we get in that stadium and eighty odd thousand are cheering for the British team that has got to give us an advantage. So I like to think that the pressure is going to be an advantage for me.
- You were in Beijing four years ago so how will that experience help you prepare for the Games and competing in the Games themselves?
It’s massive because there is something so different about and Olympic Games and the fact that it only come around every four years every athlete is desperate to do so well. It’s all different sports and it is the pinnacle of every athlete’s career.
To be able to what I did in Beijing was a massive dream realised and now to have the chance to do it at home is something that you dream about.
So we are just taking every day as it comes but as we move closer towards it we realise that the reality is there and it is something that could change your life.
- And far do you think you have progressed since the Beijing Olympics four years ago?
My progression has not been the best unfortunately because I have had a couple of really serious injuries.
But what I was able to do was come back from those injuries and get back to the top spot in the UK which a lot of people were very surprised about because they were the type of injuries that could have ended my career.
So I like to think that I have got strength from that that is worth a lot more than just ploughing through year by year - hopefully I will able to show that strength in my running.
- So what would you like to achieve at the Games this summer?
Well first and foremost I need to make the team. I need to make the team and stay healthy definitely. Then when you get there it’s the experience and I would really love to do what I did four years ago, if not better - that would be fantastic.
- Team GB did well at the World Championships last summer and there was a good indoor season at the beginning of 2012 so just how successful do you feel that team can be in track and field this summer? And how upbeat and optimistic are you all?
I think it is going to be a good one. There was a rumbling amongst the team as we have seen some good performances early on so straight away we know ‘wow everyone has come out and is in good shape’.
So you become competitive with your own Team GB team-mates, even if you are not in the same event because you want to be sure that you are living up to the expectations of the rest of the team.
I think to think that we push each other and we all get on there is no drama. We like to go out there and keep our performances on top and be the best in the world.
- When the tickets went on sale earlier this year they flew out so how much of a boost is that as an athlete to see fans are really keen to get down to the stadium and really be a part of it all?
It was crazy, the tickets didn’t just fly out they exploded it was insane. I tried to get tickets for my parents and friends and family and we all applied like everyone else and I got four weightlifting tickets - I couldn’t get any track and field tickets unfortunately.
What it has done is shown us that the sport is so popular and to think that there are going to be so many fans in the stadium is just spine-tingling so I am looking forward to it.
- So what other sports are looking forward to?
I was hoping to watch a bit of the BMX, I can’t ride a BMX bicycle but I love the excitement of it. I am also looking forward to the swimming and the gymnastics, all the things that I cannot do basically. But I am pretty sure that I am going to have to wrangle my way into a couple of events.
- Finally what's coming up for you between now and the Games?
The trials are coming up at the end of June and they are a massive deal. Before that I have one or two meets in the UK and France and so I will be bale to fine tune my racing and get ready for the trials.
On 12th June 2012 Jeanette Kwakye is leading the Ariel Big Sprint, a ‘Capital wide’ clean-up challenge to make London stainless in time for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Find out how you can get involved by visiting www.pgcapitalcleanup.com.
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw