By Tom Degun
December 28 - Matt Skelhon (pictured), the Beijing 2008 Paralympic gold medallist, is entering the New Year on a massive high after equalling the world record in the R3 10 metre air rifle prone category.
The charismatic 25-year-old is one of the rising stars of Parasport in Britain and claimed his gold medal in the Chinese capital last year with a world record 600 out of 600 just three years after being paralysed in a car accident.
Skelhon was spotted by coaches while competing at the Spinal Unit Games and went on to make his British debut in 2007.
The Stilton native is now one of the sport's premier shooters and, at the 2009 Riac and Ibis Cup in Luxembourg, Skelhon equalled the world record.
His feat at the prestigious competition was all the more impressive given the fact that Britain was the only country to enter disability shooters - the other nations entering only able-bodied participants.
But for Skelhon, victory at the 2012 Paralympics remains the ultimate goal and the sharp-shooter revealed that the Games now feel very close for him.
Skelhon told insideworldparasport: "We really haven't got very long until the Games come around right now and that's so exciting because London 2012 will be a once in a lifetime opportunity and just a massive occasion for everybody involved in them.
"It will be absolutely awesome competing at a home Games and something I already cannot wait for."
Having experienced the unique atmosphere of a Paralympic Games for the first time out in Beijing, the Skelhon knows that London organisers have a huge task on their hands following on from the memorable festival put on by the Chinese.
He said: "There is no way that London can compare with Beijing scale-wise but the atmosphere produced by competing in front of your home fans in your home country will be truly special for me and for every other British athlete.
"The Chinese had great support out in Beijing and it will be the same for us in London.”
Skelhon, who stands out from the crowd with his distinctive hairstyles, also claimed that he is reaching the peak of his career and is clearly currently in the best form of his life which is ominous news for his rivals.
He said: "We have had a little bit of a break this year following the 2008 Paralympics but since we have been back in training and competition, I'm shooting just as well - if not better - than I was in Beijing so everything is going to plan at the moment."
As one of the world's best disability shooters, the British crowd can expect Skeleton to be one of the main contenders for gold at the 2012 Paralympics and Skelhon himself maintains that the pressure is something with which he can cope.
He said: "Obviously there is going to be a lot more pressure on me and more than there would be anywhere else in the world because it’s your home crowd that you’re shooting in front of but it’s something you train to deal with.
"It's pretty hard not to think about winning that gold medal in London 2012 and I know that people are chasing me now rather than me chasing them so that brings extra pressure especially in a sport where a steady nerve is crucial.
"But you have to block everything else out and just believe in what you can do.
"You've got to know your skill and just trust in that and the rest will take care of itself."
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