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UK Athletics

Inspiring women in sport

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Perri Shakes-Drayton Inspiring Women
26 February 2015

Yesterday double European Indoor champion Perri Shakes-Drayton, 1998 Commonwealth Games high jump silver medallist Jo Summers (neé Jennings) and London 2017 Managing Director Sally Bolton joined 300 local school children at the London Aquatics Centre as a part of the Inspiring Women in Sport project.

Hosted by well-renowned broadcaster Claire Balding, women across the sport industry passed on their experience to the secondary school pupils from east London to give an insight into the vast array of opportunities available to them.

Shakes-Drayton, an east London girl herself, believes that sport has helped her in more ways than one, and while there are ups and downs along the way, the hard work and dedication has all been worth it. 

“I discovered sport in primary school and I enjoyed the buzz I got out of running, which is why I stuck with it. I wasn’t the most talented child, but I just kept working and working at it. When I started seeing improvements, that’s when all that work became worth it.

“It has given me all-round confidence. I didn’t have confidence in my body either when I was a child, but how it changed with all the running I was doing and the compliments I was getting, I thought I may as well continue! Mentally you feel good and physically you look good.

“When I was younger sport was all about fun, but it's my career now so there are always some highs & lows,” added Shakes-Drayton, who is on the road to recovery after sustaining serious knee injury in 2013.

Summers, who retired from competitive athletics soon after her success in Kuala Lumpar is now the Development Manager at British Athletics and believes that the presence of the three figures at the event shows the diverse paths people can follow in sport.

“I think we’re quite a good cross section because I’ve come through the sport and got a job. Sally wasn’t in the sport as an elite athlete, but works by applying her background and experience into her role with London 2017. Perri is still there at the highest level and she’s paid attention to her education with a degree in Sports Science, which she knows she can fall back on at any time,” explained Summers, also a two-time Olympian.   

“As a trio, we show the diversity in our roles in sport, but the one thing that brings us all together is the fact we’re passionate about sport. It’s all about finding what you enjoy doing and combining it with your studies, but if you can’t, keep doing it outside. There are hundreds of jobs in our sport and other sports, and while sometimes it’s not obvious, there are plenty of opportunities.”

After managing the most successful Rugby League World Cup ever in 2013, Bolton stepped into her new role last May, which will culminate with a return to the Olympic Stadium for the IAAF World Championships and IPC World Championships in little over two years’ time. While having a female in a high profile role in sport is somewhat rare, Bolton does not believe the qualities needed to succeed are any different if you are a man or woman.

Bolton explained: “It makes for interesting conversation, but I genuinely think that gender is irrelevant in my role so I don't feel it adds additional pressure.  The skills and experience required are as capable of being possessed by a woman as a man.”

However, Bolton does believe having the likes of Claire Balding and other female role models in the industry will help to encourage the next generation to pursue a career in sport.   

“I think it is important because however much you tell a young person what is possible, being able to see what's possible will always have a greater impact.”

For more information, please visit: http://www.inspiringthefuture.org/inspiring-women/