Shelly saves best until last

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IT all ended in smiles for Shelly Woods as the Fylde coast flyer clinched Great Britain’s final medal of the London 2012 Paralympics – a silver in the marathon.

IT all ended in smiles for Shelly Woods as the Fylde coast flyer clinched Great Britain’s final medal of the London 2012 Paralympics – a silver in the marathon.

The St Annes-based wheelchair racer likened herself to cinema boxing icon Rocky after emerging battered and bruised from a disappointing track campaign to fight back off the ropes with a thrilling sprint finish up The Mall.

The 26-year-old crossed the line in 1hr, 46.34, a second behind gold medallist Shirley Reilly of the USA.

She crossed the finishing line just minutes after David Weir had collected his fourth gold medals of these Games. Woods duly praised GB team-mate as “the greatest wheelchair racer of all time”, but rightly took pride in her own display in a race she rated “one of my toughest ever”.

Having failed to win a medal in her three track events, Woods handled the pressure and the heat to give another outstanding display in the city where she triumphed in the London Marathon for the second time this year.

Woods said: “These Games have helped build me as a character.

“I felt a little bit like Rocky – I kept getting bashed down and kept jumping up for more.

“It was such a tough week mentally and physically. I felt my speed was the best it has been for a few years but the other girls have just got better on the track.

“The marathon was such a hard race. Sprinting after 26 miles ... it really hurts but it was worth it.”

“It hurts like crazy but I wanted it so badly after training four years for this.

“I wasn’t going to let this chance pass me by because I’ve worked so hard.

“The support was amazing and the crowds have made these Paralympics so special.

“All I could hear on the course was, ‘Go on, Shelly!’ It just lifts you when you most need to find something left in the tank.”

It is Woods’ third Paralympic medal after she won 1500m silver and 5000m bronze four years ago in Beijing, where she finished an agonising fourth in the marathon.

After early pacesetter Tatyana McFadden’s hopes had been dashed yesterday by mechanical problems which forced a change of wheel, a pack of seven (including Woods) broke clear by the halfway mark, though the leading group had been reduced to four come the final mile.

Woods explained: “It was an eventful race. I tried to break early but it was not working and a few others were pushing the pace.

“I didn’t feel strong enough to break away so I decided to sit back and wait.

“Everybody wanted to wait for the sprint finish. I’ve got plenty of blisters but it’s worth it.”

Woods’ medal was GB’s 120th of the Games – 34 golds, 43 silvers and 43 bronzes.

Shelly, who now intends to take a long-delayed honeymoon in Mauritius with husband Chris, said: “It’s pretty cool to be Great Britain’s last medal winner of London 2012 – it took me long enough!”

“But it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I did as much as I could.

“To get a medal in front of Buckingham Palace – what could be better than that?”