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Track and field coach Michael Afilaka has seen the only British woman to win a European Championship 100m medal in the last 40 years battle with injury but he's taking stock from a positive 2018

THINGS HAVE been tough for Ashleigh Nelson following her European Championship 100m bronze medal win in 2014.

Plagued with injury after injury, the root cause of which is unidentified, the City of Stoke athlete has endured what many would consider self-torture in her dogged pursuit to get back to winning ways.

Her coach, Michael Afilaka, says such is Nelson's desire to return to form, the journey, leaden with hard work, doesn't put her off as she believes the goal is attainable. Just as importantly, Afilaka believes it too.

Nelson, 27, was the first British female athlete to get on the podium at a European Championships in the 100m for 40 years.

Fans of the sport will be amazed to hear though, 2018 has been the only year in her whole professional career that Nelson hasn't been injured.

Its been a steady case of acute body-management but baby steps are taking Nelson in the right direction.

"Ashleigh is coming off of a major operation on her right rectus femoris, I didn't want to push it too hard this year and her target was to make the British team in a relay capacity, which she's done," Afilaka explained.

He continued: "She pulled the right rectus femoris in 2016 but we were told not to have an operation, try to rehab it. So that's what we took into last year, but we found out we couldn't sprint.

"We finally decided to get the operation done in October last year. So, because of the type of muscle that it is, I took extra precaution when making a decision for her to run quick. That was one of the reasons she did a 400m indoors, I couldn't make her train all year.

"She then started to build the speed back in. It wasn't until around May that we started running quickly."

Running quickly in these circumstances equates to three speed sessions of which two of them contained one single run. Even with the softly, softly approach Afilaka says Nelson wasn't sure she would be able to compete in the national championships in Birmingham earlier this year. But after deciding it wasn't an event they could afford to miss she managed to navigate her way through the weekend's runs without suffering any ill effects.

While her performances were eclipsed by Dina Asher-Smith who won the trials in 10.97s, Afilaka says ensuring Nelson made the relay team was the only goal.

"I told her, she is going to take her time and take her beatings but once we get down to 11.3s second we know we are in the team and that's exactly what she did."

Having done extensive tests following the trials, Afilaka says they know what areas Nelson is lacking in, but everyone understands it's to be expected at this stage of her rehabilitative season. He said: "Normally at the back end of her race is where Ashleigh comes on strong but if you watch her this year she has been doing anything.

"But, we've done what was asked of us which was to have a full season with no injuries, get her ready for relay selection and next year we bounce back and train properly."

He continued: "She's never trained a full year without stopping. This is the first year she has ever done it. Ever.

"Even the year she won her (European) medal, she pulled nine different muscles around her groin area. The frustrating thing then was no one told us specifically what the problems were then, but over the last year with the help of some dedicated UKA staff, mixed with a couple of external medical input, we have found a working solution, we are grateful to all involved." Roll on next season.....

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