“I was always a tomboy. My coach, Domingos Guimaraes, says my ability for Athletics and sports in general are due to the very active childhood I had."
After winning a silver medal at the Beijing Paralympics, Brazil’s Javelin world-record holder Shirlene Coelho is dreaming of standing on top of the podium at London 2012 in potentially more than one event.
In Beijing in 2008, the 30-year-old who has cerebral palsy threw 35.95m (1,513 points) to set a new world record in the F37 Javelin class. However, because the competition consisted of the F35-38 classes combined, Coelho had to settle for silver behind China’s Qing Wu who claimed gold with a F36 world record throw of 28.84m (1,662 points).
Next year’s Javelin event in London will combine the F37 and F38 classes, and after winning gold at January’s International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships in New Zealand, Coelho is confident she will hear the Brazilian national anthem in 2012.
But it is not just the Javelin she is targeting gold in at London. After winning a World Championship silver in the Shot Put, as well as being a competent Discus thrower, Coelho may well take part in all three throwing events next year.
“I haven’t chosen one specific stroke yet. My training at the moment is focussed on all three,” said the athlete, who will compete in all three field events at November’s Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Born on 19 February 1981, Coelho’s parents only noticed she had cerebral palsy - which compromises the movements on the left side of her body - when she started walking.
That did not put her off sports though. A keen footballer and cyclist, she took up Athletics six years ago when she was 24 and now trains up to twice a day, five times a week.
“I was always a tomboy. My coach, Domingos Guimaraes, says my ability for Athletics and sports in general are due to the very active childhood I had,” she said.
“I don’t think you should feel sorry for yourself just because of a disability. I see myself as a champion.”
In addition to training for Paralympic gold, Coelho has found time to study physical education at the Universidade Catolica in Brazil’s capital city Brasilia.
When she retires from Paralympic Sport, she hopes to become a coach and pass on her knowledge to a new generation of champions.