IN the week in which St Annes Paralympian Shelly Woods tied the knot with her fiance Chris Oxley comes news of another happy union.
As part of a bid to improve her chances of medal glory at next summer’s London Games, she is to be helped in her quest by an old, but much admired adversary.
Chantal Petitclerc – Shelly’s oft-times nemesis on the road and on the track – is ‘changing sides’ by joining Great Britain’s athletics delegation as a coach and mentor.
And one of the wheelchair athletes that will come under Petitclerc’s guiding hand is Woods, a double medallist, having won silver and bronze at the Beijing Games.
Petitclerc has an outstanding record in the Paralympics – she took part in five Games and won an amazing 14 gold medals out of a total haul of all colours of 21.
Canadian Petitclerc will attend all key preparation camps and competitions from January 2012 onward.
She will work directly with Great Britain’s wheelchair racers alongside her own former coach Peter Eriksson and former marathon silver medallist of Canada, Kelly Smith, who has already helped out Woods in a practical way. Shelly is delighted at the news that Petitclerc has signed up for Team GB.
She said: “Peter has been building this team for some time and when he brought in (wheelchair racing coach) Kelly Smith, that was brilliant.
“He asked if there was still something missing, and I said the only person that could make it even better was Chantal.
“I’m really excited and I’m still totally shocked.
“She’s one of my idols and although she was one of my rivals when she was racing, I really looked up to her.”
Shelly added: “Chantal was always my biggest rival – now she is on my side. She knows the sport so well and has loads of things to offer the team.”
Shelly expects to meet the Canadian athlete for the first time in March.
And she will be in regular contact with her and the rest of the elite wheelchair athletes in the run-up to the Games.
Petitclerc herself has bought into the project already. She said: “I have a great passion for the sport and as an athlete I wanted to be the best in the world.
“As a coach I also want to work with the best in the world, and I think that Peter and I, as well as the rest of the staff, share a real determination to succeed.”
n See Monday’s Gazette for coverage of Shelly’s wedding day