This week’s post in the series on women Olympians features Shelly Woods. Shelley is one of Britain’s best athletes in the long distance wheelchair category and will be competing this summer in the London 2012 Paralympics.
Shelly damaged her spinal cord after falling from a tree aged 11 and was left paralysed from the waist down. Having been an incredibly active child, her parents encouraged her to find a new activity to keep her occupied. Shelly tried out a range of paralympic sports such as wheelchair basketball, swimming and table tennis before settling on athletics. Eventually she was spotted by an athletics scout at 15 and was invited to train at a national level.
Shelly has enjoyed success as a wheelchair athlete from the very beginning. She won the Great North Run in 2005, setting a new British record for the half-marathon in the process. She is also the national record holder over 5,000 metres and won silver medals in her very first London Marathon in 2005 and again in 2006, but in 2007 Shelly won in a record time of 1:50:41.
Naturally Shelly was called to represent Team GB at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, and she enjoyed a very successful tournament. She won a bronze medal in the 5,000 metres wheelchair final. Having originally been awarded silver for coming second on 8 September, a controversial protest arising from a multiple collision (six athletes crashed) in the final straight led to the race being re-staged four days later. Shelly later won a silver medal in the 1500m, and finsihed in a strong position, beating Switzerland’s Edith Hunkeler at the line.
This summer will give Shelly the opportunity to improve on her fantastic achievements in Beijing. I’m sure we will be seeing her on the podium once again.