IT was one of the great moments of the London 2012 Paralympics.
And for Ringwood runner Bethany Woodward taking silver in the T37 200m was the result of seven years of training.
She had already had the thrill of becoming a world champion when she won gold in the 400m World Championships in New Zealand but says the amount of support at the Paralympics last year made the Games an amazing experience.
“Nobody would have imagined the amount of support us athletes would have at the Paralympics,” said the 20-year-old.
“At the World Championships in New Zealand where I won my gold in the T37 400m there were around 400 people watching us.
“Then to be in front of 80,000 in London – outstanding.
“To walk out onto that track, look up and see 80,000 supporters looking down at you full of warmth – words just can’t describe that!”
A year on from the London 2012 Paralympics Bethany, also known to her fans as Bethy, is hard at work training for the Rio Paralympics in three more years and next year’s Commonwealth Games.
And it’s going well. She took second place at the Anniversary Games last month in the event to mark one year since the nation was gripped by Olympic and Paralympic fever, setting a personal best in the T37 100m race and has also taken another silver at the World Championships in Lyon, France, in the 200m earlier this year. She described getting a personal best as ‘fantastic’, adding that it is definitely not her event.
“I have been dabbling in it here and there and it is really good to compete at a high standard,” she said.
The athlete, who has cerebral palsy, a neurological condition which affects movement and coordination, said that the atmosphere at the Anniversary Games was fantastic, adding: “I think the support has been even better than it was last year at the Paralympics.
“People know more about the sport now and are engaging in it more.”
Having developed her skills at a new distance, Bethany is adding a new string to her sporting bow – by taking on the long jump, which she will be trying to compete in at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year.
“I know that I am an all-round athlete with these results, so if the Commonwealths go well, that should be very exciting.
“There is no 200m in Rio so I’m going to have a bit more time on my hands.”
Bethany is now based at the Loughborough High Performance Training Centre but she developed her love of athletics when she was growing up in the New Forest.
She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was around one year old and it was noticed that she had problems crawling and her foot was floppy when she was sitting in her high chair.
She grew up in Ringwood, where her parents looked after eight children with various disabilities in a Camphill Community.
These are communities for people with disabilities based on Christian ideals.
As well as caring for each other, members of Camphill Communities also care for the environment by following organic and biodynamic principles in their gardens and farms, recycling and using environmentally-friendly products.
Bethany’s parents, Tim and Georgina Woodward, looked after eight children with disabilities and she grew up alongside them.
They didn’t have television and she spent much of her childhood outdoors running round the New Forest and helping her father look after a small woodland – she even abseiled for the first time aged just three and a half!
As a child Bethany had extensive curative eurythmy treatment – a form of movement therapy which she feels helped her.
She took up athletics at secondary school, by which point her parents had moved to another Camphill Community in St Albans.
In 2008 her family moved back to the New Forest and her training stepped up a gear. “I was then coached by Todd Bennett, who transformed me physically from a young girl with talent to a young woman who was able to with the IPC World Championship 400m gold medal,” she said.
It was just two years before she won silver at London 2012 that she decided to immerse herself fully in athletics. Her dad had to persuade her mum that this was a good idea – her medal haul since has proved it was the right decision! Hopefully the Rio Paralympics in 2016 will see her add a few more medals to her growing collection.
By Sally Churchward, Senior Feature Writer, 9:38am Monday 12th August 2013 in News