With a new coach and a fierce determination to win, Shelly Woods is entering a new phase in her athletics career and has sights set on Rio 2016 glory
Having recently joined forces with Paralympic legend Chantal Petitclerc, wheelchair racer Shelly Woods is entering a new phase in her athletics career, one that she hopes will see her win her first Paralympic gold in Rio in just under three years’ time.
But on Monday the 27-year-old suffered an early blow to those plans with the news that she has lost her lottery funding for the 2014 season.
A number of big-name athletes were among those absent from UK Athletics’ World Class Performance Programme lists, with criteria stating that ‘Podium’ athletes must be potential Rio 2016 medallists, while the lower-level support on offer through ‘Podium Potential’ is for athletes developing towards Tokyo 2020.
Following the announcement, Woods, who claimed marathon silver at London 2012 but missed the World Championships in Lyon earlier this year due to illness, voiced her frustration on Twitter.
“Very disappointed to hear @BritAthletics have decided not to fund me on the @uk_sport world class performance programme,” she tweeted, adding the hashtag “#nothappy”.
The T54 1500m world record-holder will be determined to prove selectors wrong, though, and has set her sights on the the ING New York City Marathon on November 3 as her next major test.
Speaking to AW at the beginning of October, Woods, who has unfinished business in the Big Apple having done the race eight times and finished runner-up on four occasions, said: “Winning in New York is definitely on my list of things to do and I’m going to keep going over there to try to do it!”
The undulating nature of the Bupa Great North Run, which Woods won for the fifth time last month, was good preparation for New York and the Blackpool athlete feels she’s rounding into great shape at the end of a quiet post-Paralympic year.
“My confidence was really high going into the Paralympics, as I’d won the London Marathon a few months before, but people were hanging gold medals around my neck before the Games,” said Woods who was sixth in the 1500m, eighth in the 5000m and knocked out in the 800m heats before rallying to claim marathon silver at the London Games.
“I’ve learned that you can have rough times but get through them if you keep battling away”
“I definitely needed a bit of a break after London,” she continued to tell AW. “And I’ve learned that you can have rough times but get through them if you keep battling away.”
Given this, Woods is confident and optimistic going into New York. It will also act as a launchpad for a winter’s training that she hopes will give her the background to succeed in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next summer.
Beyond this, she admits Rio beckons and will be hoping Petitclerc, the Canadian wheelchair racer who won 14 gold medals from 1996 to 2008, is the coach to help her on her way to Paralympic glory.
“I worked with Chantal before the Paralympics in London,” said Woods, who switched to Petitclerc after her previous coach, Peter Eriksson, left his job as UKA head coach to move back to Canada.
“She was my go-to woman at the Games because Peter was so busy,” Woods added, with the transition between coaches having been a smooth and logical one, as Petitclerc used to be coached by Eriksson herself and therefore has similar training theories.
On Rio 2016, Woods added: “It’s definitely on the agenda.
“I’m only 27 and definitely not at my peak yet. My ambition is to win gold. Of course it is. It’s what you train for.”