PARALYMPIC powerhouse Shelly Woods is confident of beating her rivals for IPC World Championships medals in New Zealand as long as she has fully beaten the bug.
The St Annes-based wheelchair racer skipped the Commonwealth Games to prepare for the World Championships, which start in Christchurch tomorrow, but Woods lost precious training time when she was struck down with flu over Christmas, having returned to the Fylde from warm-weather training in the Canaries.
Illness also afflicted her build-up to November’s New York Marathon and the 24-year-old is anxious for a clean bill of health in her three-pronged Kiwi medal bid (T54 1,500m, 5,000m and marathon).
Woods has made up for lost time in training at the Aviva GB & NI team’s Auckland base and now feels fully fit to battle the world’s best.
But after landing at the Aviva-funded warm-weather training camp in the New Year – Woods admits she’s finally back to full fitness and predicts her time in Auckland will give her the extra edge to go out and medal when it matters most.
“The World Championships are a huge event for me – since the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, it’s the next big thing on the road to London 2012. I think it is realistic for me to medal because I had a good 2010, setting a world 1,500m record in August and also clocking the second-fastest ever 5,000m time.
“I’m in good shape and confident. Now I need to get to the start-line healthy and then execute my race plans.” Woods is well aware that the formbook may not be worth reading. “I race the American and European girls all the time but its different competing at a major championship. It can be very tactical and times don’t count for anything.
“There are a number of girls I will be looking out for – Di Roy, McFadden and the Chinese – but I feel confident because my training and preparation has been going so well in Auckland.
“The Aviva-funded preparation camps are an essential part of my preparation for major championships. Athletics is such an individual sport, it’s so important to meet new people at these camps and gel with my team-mates.”
These will not be Woods’ last international games before London 2012, the double Paralympic medalist is bound for this year’s able-bodied World Championships in Korea for a one-off wheelchair race.
Aviva has been supporting British athletes since 1999. To find out more about Aviva’s athletics sponsorship, go to aviva.co.uk/athletics