ST Annes wheelchair athlete Shelly Woods will go for glory in the Virgin London Marathon tomorrow, bidding to emulate her success in the 2007 race.
Shelly, one of the elite athletes in the marathon and a medal prospect for next year’s London Paralympics, has been preparing for tomorrow’s event under the guidance of a new coach, Swede Peter Eriksson, the man with the golden touch.
He is the head coach of UK Athletics Paralympic and has a considerable record.
The athletes he has supervised have won a remarkable 119 medals at Paralympic Games since 1984.
Shelly said: “It can only be a big help to have a coach like Peter. He used to coach one of my big rivals, Chantal Petitclerc, until she retired – she won five gold medals in Beijing.
“I have known him since I was 17 and he has changed things in my preparation for tomorrow.
“I have won the London Marathon before, but it has not always been my favourite race – I have had punctures in the race before and been beaten by girls faster than me.
“It is a twisty, turny course, which doesn’t really suit me, but it is always special when you take part in your home marathon.”
It will be Shelly’s first serious competition since the World Championships in New Zealand – she won bronze in the 5,000 metres, but the marathon turned into a farce and she pulled out when the British team management discovered that the course would not be closed to vehicles.
However, the preparation she did for the world championships was still miles in the bank for the London Marathon.
Meantime, Shelly will miss the World Cup meeting in Manchester in May, as the event clashes with competition in Switzerland at the same time.
She says there is a better chance in Switzerland of achieving the first of two Paralympic qualifying times for London 2012.
Shelly said: “There are two races in Switzerland. I am expecting the qualifying times needed to come out soon, and I need to produce one in 2011 and another in 2012 to get into the team.”
Shelly was a double medallist at the last Beijing Games and has already attracted bluechip sponsors – BP, Nestle, adidas and British Airways – as well as Lottery Fund backing to aid her build- up to 2012.