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UK Athletics

My Rollercoaster Experience

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Shelly Woods wins bronze in T54 5000m




13 October 2008


Column as featured in Athletics Weekly Magazine


Returning from the Paralympic Games in Beijing with a silver and bronze was an amazing experience - one I will never forget.


I’ve enjoyed talking about my experiences. The one question I have been asked most since return from the Paralympic Games was how did I cope? It is a story I have had to tell a hundred times already, but if even one person can look at what happened to me and take from it some strength in a tough competitive experience it is well worth it.


Having had the fantastic moment of winning the silver medal in the women’s T54 5000m, I was told an hour or so after the medal ceremony that I would have to race again.


What made it so hard was that having received the medal I let myself believe the protests by the racers who had crashed had come to nothing and that all was sorted.


“What? But I’ve got my medal!” was my reply when I was told by team staff. I returned to the village to be faced with dozens of fellow team members – all unfortunately blissfully unaware of the late developments.


Congratulations rang out from my friends so I had the tough task of revealing the bad news over and over. I also lost a lot of sleep – my head was buzzing and I was worried about the fact that I had to squeeze in more races into fewer days.


But that is where the athlete in you kicks in – and despite my disappointment I became ever more determined that I was going to make the rerun count.


After all – it is my job as a racer to go out there and perform – you overcome obstacles in training and so you overcome them in competition – it was what I had trained so hard to do.


Despite feeling it was wrong to rerun the race (and still having the same opinion) I looked for the positives. For one I knew that it was better to beat those girls when they were still standing so I knew I had beaten the best racers.


I knew it was better to rerun and win my medal fair and square as opposed to having anyone say I only won a medal because of a crash.


I knew that in a rerun I would have a better idea of everyone’s form – the 5000m was my first race and having raced them once, I knew more about who was pushing fast that week.


And finally I knew where I had made tactical errors in the first race and what I could do to put that right.


Having said all of this you need to focus in testing times and I have come away from my first Paralympic Games a much stronger person.

I wish it hadn’t happened – I would rather not have gone through that . It is mentally and physically challenging to compete at such a high level – it is even harder to medal – but to medal and experience the controversy and challenge of a rerun? I wouldn’t wish it on anyone!


But I do know that whilst being a challenge I shall never ever forget my crazy, wonderful, testing and emotional Beijing rollercoaster experience – and I hope other athletes see that sometimes you just have to plough on and get the job done.