A FORMER Fishguard woman is training for a world-first as she takes part in a 22-mile English Channel relay swim, without a wetsuit.

Paula Craig MBE was left paralysed and in a wheelchair after a road accident in May 2001 when she was knocked from her bike while training for a triathlon.

After her accident she was determined to continue her sporting activities and within a year she completed the 2002 London Marathon in two hours 48 minutes, making her the only person to have run and pushed the London Marathon.

She has also competed as a wheelchair triathlete at an international level.

When a bone infection prevented her from competing as a wheelchair athlete Paula intensified her swimming training and is now planning to become the first person with a complete spinal injury to swim the Channel without a wetsuit, taking on the challenge as part of Aspire's relay channel swim team. Each swimmer will take it in turns to swim for an hour during the cross channel attempt until the team reaches France.

Aspire supported Paula after her accident and provided adapted accommodation for her to move into.

Paula is part of a team of six hoping to make the 22-mile swim next summer and raise funds for the charity as they do so. The swim was initially supposed to take place this month but due to adverse weather conditions has been postponed until 2022.

"Each year, I get the opportunity to speak to the Aspire Relay Channel Swimmers and actually think they're slightly mad," said Paula.

"Each year I'm asked when I'm going to take part and each year I say, 'I'm not!'.

" However, this year, to mark the anniversary of the accident and celebrate my achievements of the past 20 years, I will be taking on the waves, the cold water and the jellyfish to raise much-needed funds.

"My life changed in an instant when I was hit by a car leaving me paralysed from the waist down. As a police officer and marathon runner, I had no idea what the future would hold but, thanks to Aspire and the amazing work they do, I was able to return to both and to live life to the full."

The team of six, known as the Aspire Mutts, in recognition of Archie, Paula's cockerpoo and constant companion, trains frequently at Heron Lake, Wraysbury, Middlesex as well as at Aspire training weekends in Dover.

To help the team raise funds for Aspire visit justgiving.com/fundraising/paulacraig.