FOR a once aspiring Paralympian, carrying the Paralympic Torch through central London was the next best thing to competing.

Vicki Cornish, of Royal Wootton Bassett , was overjoyed to find out she had been nominated to carry the flame on the official 24-hour torch relay ahead of the opening of the Paralympic Games on Wednesday night.

The 45-year-old, who has been wheelchair-bound since the age of 14 when an operation for scoliosis further damaged her spine and rendered her paraplegic, won the chance of a lifetime because of her voluntary work with groups in the community.

She said carrying the torch had been both daunting and exciting.

“It was so scary,” she said. “There were loads of people lining the streets and shouting and clapping – the atmosphere was just brilliant. “I felt strange because I was thinking ‘why are you cheering for me and asking to take my picture, I’m just like you.’ “I was nominated by a family friend a long time ago through Sainsbury’s and my category was under voluntary work. I do work for the Rainbows, Wootton Bassett Light Operatic Society and Swindon Foodbank.

“We didn’t hear from anyone for ages until they phoned me to say I had got through but I couldn’t tell anyone. During her rehabilitation at a young age Vicki got involved with sports such as wheelchair racing and basketball, and even trained at the home of the Paralympics, Stoke Mandeville, with famous athletes Tanni Grey-Thompson and David Weir.

It means the Paralympics hold special meaning for Vicki, who still plays sport, including wheelchair tennis.

“I’ve never seen myself as having a disability and I’ve always tried to show people how much you can do,” she said.

“I think the Paralympics returning home to Britain from where they began will show people what we can do, not focus on what we can’t.

“I’m looking forward to seeing David and our local girl Louise Hunt.”