A FORMER maths teacher, disabled during a freak accident at an Olympic qualifier 18 years ago, has been picked from thousands of hopefuls to wield the Olympic Torch.

Wendy Morrell, who suffered a devastating brain injury when a stray discus hit her in the head as she battled for place in the British Olympic archery squad, will run one of the London legs of the 137,000km torch relay. She will also be a VIP guest at the games in Beijing next summer.

Wheelchair-bound Wendy, from Broadstone, will be accompanied in London by the one individual she says pulled her from the depths of despair, her eight-year-old Golden Retriever Caesar.

Caesar, an assistance dog trained by Dogs for the Disabled, has been with Wendy for seven years, and since his arrival Wendy's life has turned around.

She said: "Caesar was the catalyst for me to start my recovery. Before him, I didn't go out, I just looked inwards and was very isolated. Through him I slowly gained my confidence.

"It used to be a case of life before the accident and life after the accident. Now I think of things as life before Caesar and life after Caesar."

Since he bounded onto the scene as a 14-month old pup, Wendy began working to help others in her situation.

She co-founded the Broadstone Access Group, became an active member of the assistance dog movement in the UK and abroad and is now a member of the independent Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee.

She was unveiled as one of four winners of a Samsung sponsored competition to find "local heroes" by Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave and Girls Aloud singer Kimberly Walsh at a VIP bash in London.

Wendy said: "It is like coming full circle. When I had the accident in 1989 my aim was to make the Olympic Games through my archery. That ambition was quashed in a second. Now, to play a part in the 2008 Olympics ties it all up nicely."

Praising the winners, Sir Steve said: "The Olympics has always been a great example of how people can come through when the odds are stacked against them. These four are an even greater example of that Olympic spirit."

Wendy and Caesar will complete their London leg on April 6, 2008.