International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships medallists Shelly Woods and Mickey Bushell celebrate today’s “One Year to Go” milestone to the London 2012 Paralympic Games at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea (27 August – 4 September).
The pair – both medallists at the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008 – will compete in the T54 800m and T53 400m respectively on the penultimate day of the IAAF competition (Saturday 3 September) in Daegu and in doing so will play an important role in the promotion of Paralympic Sport worldwide.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to compete on such a huge stage ahead of next summer,” said 1,500m world record holder Woods. “To be part of the IAAF World Championships, even in an exhibition race, is great.
“The 800m will provide more of a challenge than if it had it been a 1500m, but I’ve been working a lot on my speed this summer and it’s going give me the chance to put into practice what I’ve been doing in training.
“It’s a World Championships race, but it’s not the World Championships as such, so the pressure is a bit less. It’s going to be a world class field though and it’ll be a real test - I’m really excited to be part of it, it’s huge.
In January, 18 months out from the London 2012 Games, the IPC Athletics World Championships in New Zealand was a significant turning point for Paralympic track and field athletics in Britain as the Aviva GB & NI team finished third in the gold medal table with 38 medals in total. It was a major improvement on their 18th place finish in the Beijing Paralympic Games and points to a realistic top eight target in the capital in 12 months time.
“Overall, I think that result shows that we’ve increased the base standard at which our guys are competing,” said Peter Eriksson, UKA’s Head Coach for Paralympic Performance; “that’s partly due to increased competition opportunities, but also due to the commitment from the athletes and the no-excuses environment in which we’re operating,”
“Domestically we’ve worked hard to provide world class competition for our athletes to promote the sport to the British public, both in standalone competitions and integrated events. Now that we’ve got two integrated events in Daegu involving our own athletes, plus Oscar Pistorius competing for South Africa and Jason Smyth competing for Ireland in the core programme, that offers the perfect marketing tool for London 2012 and promotes the sport to a global audience.
“These guys are great ambassadors for our sport and will showcase Paralympic athletics at its best.”
With around two million tickets for the London 2012 Paralympic Games going on sale on Friday 9 September, it’s a vital message to communicate and Woods is confident that with a year to go, her own training preparations are going to plan.
“I can’t believe it (that it’s a year to go),” she added. “I was reading Dave’s Twitter (three-times World Champion David Weir) and he was talking about it…and you suddenly realize it’s not far away.
“I just don’t know where time has gone since Beijing, but I’m in a good place and training is going well. So long as I keep doing what I’m doing I think that this time next year, a week or so out from the Games, I’ll be in an even better place.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to compete in a home Games and you need to grab that opportunity and give it everything."