Alaska-born wheelchair racer captures bronze at Paralympics

Alaska-born wheelchair racer adds to Paralympic silver medal won Sunday.

Anchorage Daily NewsSeptember 7, 2012 

Former Barrow resident Shirley Reilly left, Switzerland's Edith Wolf, right, and Britain's Shelley Woods compete in the women's 5000-meter T54 final Sunday at the 2012 Paralympics in London. Wolf won the gold medal, Reilly the silver and Australia's Christie Dawes the bronze.

KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Alaska-born wheelchair racer Shirley Reilly had a feeling her third Paralympics might be her best. She wasn't wrong.

Reilly captured a bronze medal at the London Paralympics on Friday by finishing third in the 1,500 meters. It's the second medal of the games for the former Barrow woman, who competed in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 without winning a medal.

"This time is the best in shape I've ever been," Reilly told azcentral sports before leaving for London. "It's the best chance for me to medal. And I'm getting older, I don't know where I'll be in a few years, so hopefully this is the time."

Reilly was born prematurely with spinal cord damage that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Her family moved from Barrow to California when Reilly was a toddler to get her closer to the medical attention she needed.

Now 27, she is a junior at the University of Arizona, where she trains with the Arizona Wheelchair Track and Road Racing Team.

She captured a silver medal in the 5,000 meters last week and added the bronze Friday in a close race where the top-four finishers were separated by less than a second.

Gold medalist Tatyana McFadden of the United States won in 3 minutes, 36.42 seconds. Edith Wolf of Switzerland was second in 3:38.78, Reilly was third in 3:37.03 and Diane Roy of Canada was fourth in 3:37.14.

Reilly's best event is yet to come -- Sunday's marathon. Reilly won the wheelchair division at this year's Boston Marathon and is among the favorites in the 12-woman field.

She will also compete in the 400-meter finals Saturday.


Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335

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