Britain’s Paralympic Hopefuls – Shelly Woods

Labour Party

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.

Britain’s Paralympic Hopefuls – Nikki Emerson

Labour Party

Nikki Emerson is one of the rising stars of the Great Britain Paralympics team. She was the top British finisher in this year’s London Wheelchair marathon, and also competes in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m. In the future she hopes to take part in the Paratriathlon at international level.

Nikki found that her life ambitions suddenly changed in 2008 when she was involved in a car accident that left her with a broken spine.  During the Beijing Olympics Nikki was undergoing intensive physiotherapy and hydrotherapy as part of her recovery and adapting to life in a wheelchair. She found herself inspired by the talented Paralympic Athletes she saw on screen. These paralympic stars are the motivation behind her sporting career. Her potential soon led to her being coached by Dr Ian Thompson, the husband of Baroness Grey-Thompson.  Tanni later advised her to concentrate on Wheelchair distance race,s as opposed to rowing, where her athletic potential was initially recognised.

Nikki has come a long way since her first race, the Silverstone half marathon. Her success at Silverstone meant that she qualified for the 2009 London Marathon. After coming fourth in the 2010 London Marathon, she went on to win four medals during the 2010 Under 23’s World Track championships.

One of her most significant achievements so far has been in the 800m where she is world number six. She also ranks 7th in the world for the wheelchair marathon.

In addition to athletics, Nikki also volunteers as a coach for the disability branch of Vale of Aylesbury athletics club. She is passionate about encouraging sport among people with disabilities both for the positive effect on their fitness, general wellbeing and enjoyment.