Woods a star in Wheelchair Games

Published 10:12 pm Tuesday, July 3, 2012

FILE PHOTO Wheelchair Games: Personal trainer Rodney Sanders gets Diana Woods into condition for the 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games. She earned three gold medals in the games.

By Titus Mohler

Diana Woods of Suffolk won three gold medals last week at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games held in Richmond.

The 29-year old took first in the shot put, discus and weightlifting events.


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Woods is a paraplegic. Pain in her side that she began to feel in 2009 was being caused by something in her spleen. It proved to be a cancerous tumor that had coiled around her spinal cord.

She had been serving in the U.S. Navy but was medically discharged in 2011.

While rehabilitating in the hospital, she discovered the wheelchair games. They proved to be an outlet to help her press on in her life, engage her competitive spirit, and set an example for her 5-year-old daughter.

Her first national wheelchair games experience was one of victory despite a significant disadvantage that was not directly related her disability.

“I felt pretty good,” she said. “Because I was new to the game, they didn’t tell me everything that I needed. So I felt like I was unprepared in different ways. It was a little frustrating, but overall, I learned a lot.”

Woods didn’t know, for instance, that she would be required to perform the shot put and discus with her legs tied down to keep her from using them in any way while throwing. Since she did not have the necessary equipment to tie them down, something had to be improvised.

She was also accustomed to using her wheelchair in the shot put and discus events, but was advised to use a slightly elevated “field chair” that she was told would be easier and even appeared to be so for other contestants. This was not the case for her.

Because of all these complications, Woods was surprised by her wins.

“For the shot put and discus, I was (surprised),” she said. “I fell after I threw the discus. Those were the two I was not told that I needed to bring tie-downs for my legs. So, I was kind of really nervous. I was higher up than normal. It’s not easy when you can’t feel your legs, it’s even harder when you’re high off the ground and you don’t touch the ground at all.”

The fall was caused by the improvised tie-downs and her unfamiliarity with them. Her personal trainer Rodney Sanders and her sister Ana Melendez were there to catch her, however, preventing a potentially serious injury.

In the weightlifting competition, Woods lifted 95 pounds for the win. She knows she can do more, though, as Sanders encouraged her to do.

“He actually told me, ‘Go for 115, I know you can lift it.’ And I was like, ‘No, no, no, I want to be safe.’ So I did 95, but I should have listened to him, because I know now I could have lifted 115 pounds or more,” she said.

Woods was clear about what was vital to her success.

“Definitely training with Rodney at GodHap 4 Fitness and the positive influence that he had with the training and the positive influence from everyone else around,” she said.

Woods said she looks forward to next year when competition will be held in Tampa, Fla.

“We’re going to continue training three times a week and get ready for next year’s games and try and see if we can get scouted for the Paralympics,” she said. “My plan is to go in 2016 to the Paralympics for shot put and discus.”

Those supporting her have said she is an inspiration to them, but she deflects by pointing to her own inspiration for competing and winning gold — her daughter.

“She’s my motivation,�� Woods said, “to show her that life goes on.”