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Page last updated at 12:33 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 13:33 UK

Clarke takes aim at Beijing medal

By Melissa Rudd
Blast Reporter, BBC Norfolk

GB archer Mel Clarke
Clarke will gain valuable experience before London 2012

Paralympic archer Mel Clarke is aiming for a medal on her Paralympic Games debut in Beijing in September.

The 25-year-old from Taverham told BBC Radio Norfolk of her 'long road' to China after being selected to represent Great Britain.

Clarke contracted Lyme disease from an infected bite in 2003 which left her paralysed and partially blind.

"I was told at the time that I'd never shoot my bow again so to be going to the games is amazing," she said.

"I have had a lot of support to get there - my hope is to come home with a medal."

Clarke has used a wheelchair from the age of 11 because of an arthritic condition and took up archery when she was 16.

She currently holds 20 county records, 10 national able-bodied records and eight world records, but her hardest battle was not on the field.

It was whilst competing at the World Archery Championships in 2003 that Clarke was left fighting for her life after a tick bite left her infected with Lyme disease.

Yet just five years after her struggle for survival, she flies out to Beijing at the end of August as part of the 12-strong archery squad.

"It is the ultimate sporting achievement to represent your country at that level. It's an opportunity I never thought I'd have because of the bow categories and I'm looking forward to it very much," she said.

Team GB won gold in Athens four years ago, but there will be no team event in Beijing, so Clarke will be competing against her compatriots.

But she insists that vying for glory against her team-mates is something she has been training to do.

"It's going to be difficult because we shoot well together but we're all friends. If one of us knocks the other out we're going to support each other and hope that one of us gets a medal."

Clarke is confident of performing well at the Games but says the experience alone will be a massive help in the run up to London 2012.

"The focus is on Beijing because it is so close, but London is in the back of my mind because it is only four years away.

"I'm looking forward to hopefully competing there in front of family and friends on home soil."

see also
Beijing battle for a survivor
01 Sep 08 |  England
Paralympics on the BBC
24 Jul 08 |  Paralympics

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