Paralympics 2020: Scottish teacher paralysed in cycling accident set for Games debut

Few can appreciate the importance of timing quite like Melanie Woods.

Melanie Woods will make her ParalympicsGB debut in Tokyo. Pic:

In 2018, the PE teacher from Glasgow was cycling in the wrong place at the wrong time when she was struck by a car on a country road in Inverness.

The collision shattered her back and pelvis, broke a leg in three places and caused a spinal clot that left her paralysed from the waist down.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But three years on, the 27-year-old insists she’s the biggest beneficiary from the year-long delay to the Paralympics, where she will make an unlikely debut this month.

The extra year gave Woods time to hone a craft she only started in 2019 and the hard work paid off earlier this month when she was called-up to race in the T54 400m and 800m in Tokyo.

In keeping with a whirlwind three years, she’s now preparing to race for gold but admits that had the Games gone ahead as planned last summer, she would have been watching on TV with everyone else.

“I was very shocked. It has been a scramble to get it together and be here. It has all been a bonus and I think that has made it more exciting,” she said.

“It has been a very quick two years and I feel a bit like an imposter to be honest.

“When races started to be cancelled in 2020, I was like the more the better for me because it gives me time to train, gain experience in the chair and learn as much as I can.

“When races came around, I felt more ready. So, the Games being later has given me a chance I didn’t think I would have before.”

Woods spent seven months in hospital after the crash and tried other sports like wheelchair tennis before settling on racing.

She made her Great Britain debut at the European Championships last month but the call-up for Tokyo still came as a surprise.

Woods was planning to cheer on her teammates from home and was on a camping holiday in Perthshire when the call came.

“If you think I am shocked now, then I will be even more if I have a medal around my neck. It is 2021 so you don’t write anything off,” she added.

“I just want to race as close to my best as possible. I want to be able to do it under the pressure and on the big stage.

“I want to experience the nerves and the excitement and control that and not get too carried away. Ultimately that is the focus.

“I also want to enjoy it. From hearing other people speak, it sounds like not many do because there are a lot of pressures and it is a nerve-wracking event.

“It gives me confident that in three years’ time I will be in Paris. I have only been in the sport for two years, so in another three I will have so much more experience.”

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £36 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has at and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen

Get a year of unlimited access to all The Scotsman's sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis of the biggest games, exclusive interviews, live blogs, transfer news and 70 per cent fewer ads on - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.