Team GB's Perri Shakes-Drayton has promised to "run her heart out" when she competes in the 400m hurdles on Sunday.
The east Londoner, who “never dreamed” she would be an Olympian, vowed to give “whatever it takes” to get to the final.
Last month she reached second place on the all-time list of British 400m hurdlers behind former world record holder Sally Gunnell.
The eureka moment for Shakes-Drayton, 23, came in her final competitive meeting before the Olympics, at Crystal Palace.
It followed a poor performance at last summer’s world championships in Daegu, South Korea, where she failed to make the final.
As she took to her blocks in the rain and wind at the south London track she told herself: “Come on girl, pull your socks up.”
A photograph of her crossing the line captures perfectly her shock at finishing in 53.77 seconds — 0.51 seconds faster than when she won bronze at the 2010 European Championship and almost a second quicker than Irina Davydova, the Russian who won the European title in Helsinki in June.
She said: “My aim for that day was to come home with a season’s best. To run a PB, I was like: ‘Wow, it was in me.’ ”
Shakes-Drayton was raised in Bow and educated in Stepney before studying sports science at Brunel University. She still trains at Mile End stadium, coached by Chris Zah, running in everything the British weather can throw at her rather than retreating indoors.
She said of her Crystal Palace victory: “I’ve trained in worse conditions, the weather didn’t faze me one bit.”
Nevertheless she won gold in this year’s 4x400 relay at the world indoor championships in March in Istanbul. Shakes-Drayton began running at
primary school “for the fun of it”, but enjoyed distance events more, the 800 metres, 1,500 metres and cross country.
She said: “I never did well at that so my coach said to try the hurdles. I never ever dreamed of being an Olympian. I was just training hard and discovered a talent that I had and it’s brought me here. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get me to the final, that’s my aim. I’m going to run my heart out in each round.”
Shakes-Drayton still lives close to mother Norma Shakes and father Patrick Drayton — Lennox Lewis’s former fitness trainer.
She is so known in her neighbourhood that there is a constant stream of well-wishers telling her, “all the best” and “I’m rooting for you.”
“It’s really nice, wherever I go, every-one is behind Team GB,” she said. She added that the streets she loves have changed “drastically” with the Olympic developments.
Where the Olympic stadium now stands, she once browsed the Sunday market and there is now a “Tesco Express on every corner”.
She said: “Stratford looks amazing. It’s a lovely place and I’m proud to say that I’m from there.”
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