TWO-TIME gold medallist Jodi Willis-Roberts believes she has a shot at competing in her seventh Paralympics despite missing selection for London.
Willis-Roberts will be 49-years-of-age when the Paralympics go to Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but a switch back to discus throwing has re-invigorated her desire to keep competing on the world stage.
Her first big target on the road to Rio is next year’s Paralympic Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France. Willis-Roberts, who is vision impaired, remains adamant that she was unfairly overlooked in the selection of the goalball team for London.
After living in Ballarat for two decades, Willis-Roberts relocated to Bundaberg in Queensland in February this year to allow herself to train regularly with other members of the Australian goalball squad — confident she would get the selectors’ nod.
Willis-Roberts believes that not being as young and glamorous as others in the squad had gone against her. “I believe in my heart I have better skills than at least two players who were selected.”
So strong are her feelings, her Twitter profile states: “Politix robbed me of #7 for 2012. 2016?”
She said while her fitness was also an issue, with the team announced as early as March she believed she had plenty of time to get it up to the required standard.
Willis-Roberts had surgery in August to repair her left hamstring which she tore off the bone while training with the Australian goalball squad and had been still working on her aerobic fitness. Willis-Roberts has competed at the past six Paralympics, with her first being in the goalball team at Seoul in 1988.
She has two gold medals, two silver and three bronze medals, having also competed in the shot put and discus. Willis-Roberts said she had re-assessed her sporting future while taking a month off after missing selection. She said it was during that time that she unearthed a new discus coach not far from where she lived who was producing some excellent results.
Willis-Roberts said this had persuaded her to return to track and field – a sport in which there was less subjectiveness in selection.
She said Australia’s level one qualifying throw for the London Paralympics had been 39 metres and she had a career best of 38.5m.
Willis-Roberts said even though next year’s world titles were a long time away, right now she was enthusiastic and eager to give athletics another concerted effort.