THE excitement of the Paralymics is hotting up quite literally for Shelly Woods.
With the London Games barely a week away, Fylde wheelchair racer Woods is working hard under the baking sun of Portugal at Team GB’s athletics training camp.
The 26-year-old knows she will need to be in peak physical condition to cope with the rigours of contesting four events in London, just as she did in Beijing four years ago, when she won a gold and a silver medal.
St Annes-based Woods is dreaming of her first gold in London, but is concentrating only on putting the hard work in to give herself the best opportunity of success as she faces a possible seven races in 10 days in the capital.
After two weeks in camp, Woods returns to the UK on Monday and travels directly to the Olympic Village, her home for the next fortnight, and where she hopes her dreams will come true.
Speaking to The Gazette from Portugal, Woods was as enthusiastic as ever: “I’ve got a few more days here, then we travel to London on Monday and I have my first race on the Friday, the 5,000m heat.”
That event brings back memories of the incredible Beijing final of 2008, when Woods weaved her way through the carnage to claim silver after a multiple pile-up on the home straight. However, the race was ordered to be re-run and Shelly had to settle for bronze second time around.
It’s an experience she is convinced stands her in good stead: “I did the same four events four years ago and had the extra race, because the 5,000m final was re-run, so I know how tough it is. I know you have to be tough mentally as well as physically.”
The need to complete plenty of hard work is why Woods has kept a low-profile since dominating the London Marathon in April, winning the event for a second time and giving herself a huge confidence boost for her final event of the Paralympics (she also contests the 1,500m, in which she holds the world record and won bronze in Beijing, and the 800m.
She added: “I had two months of good training at home on the Fylde coast before coming out here. It’s been very hot in Portugal but it’s been fantastic. And when I phoned home, I was told there had been a lot of rain, so it’s worked out really well.”
Shelly is always happy to chat to The Gazette, but for now our conversations are limited to official media days, as the Team GB management do everything to ensure their athletes are not distracted from their preparations.
At least Shelly and her room-mate in Portugal, thrower Josie Pearson, are able to keep in touch with their friends and followers via Twitter.
Herefordshire-based Josie, who represented Britain at rugby in Beijing before converting to the discus and club throw for 2012, posted this picture of the pair in Portugal.
Shelly added: “I’ve known Josie for a few years and we both like Twitter because it’s fun.
“Tweeting does help you to relax between the training sessions, which I think is important because you give your best performances when you are in a relaxed frame of mind.”
“There’s a lot of time to kill after training and not a lot to do.
“You just want to relax, stay out of the sun and not think about athletics, so it’s good to have a room-mate you can have fun with.”
You can follow Shelly on Twitter at @shellywoods86
Woods is one of four Fylde Paralympians training hard ahead of the Games. The others are fellow St Annes resident Myles Pearson, a member of the GB wheelchair rugby team, and Blackpool fencers David Heaton and Justine Moore.