09 December 2022

Inspired by London 2012 aiming for Rio 2016!

February 12, 2013

Anne Dickins, a London 2012 Gamesmaker has taken up canoeing after a chance encounter and has now earnt herself a place on the GB Paralympic canoe training squad for Rio. Now that’s a great legacy!

Queuing up for a place at Rio 2016

Mother of two Anne Dickins has, in just seven weeks, gone from a total novice in a canoe to being named in the squad after a chance encounter with development coach Colin Radmore at the London Games.

The 45-year-old physiotherapist joked with the former British slalom canoeist, who she met while queuing for a coffee at the Westfield Shopping Centre, that he could have her on the squad if he liked, after explaining he was on a nationwide search for suitable athletes to train for Rio 2016.

Paracanoeing is one of two new sports accepted into the 2016 Paralympics and Anne now hopes to be among the chosen few. She has already posted impressive training times for the 200m sprint and one of her initial training runs would have placed her 17th in the world rankings for her category (LTA).

“The conversation that has changed my life only happened because we were both early for work that day,” Anne said. “It was 6.30 in the morning and we were in a queue for coffee. It is unlikely we would ever have spoken, but we were both wearing our Gamesmakers uniforms, and just struck up a conversation.

He told me he was on the look-out for athletes to train for Rio. I joked, ‘why not take me!’”

Anne, who broke her back while in her twenties and recently underwent back surgery after a second injury to relieve a spinal cord compression, was working as a volunteer with the physiotherapist team in the cycling velodrome where later in the day she recalled her chance encounter to colleagues.

“I was in a bit of a daze. It was meant as a joke to offer myself as a potential squad member, but Colin’s coffee was soon forgotten as he fired a barrage of questions at me about my back injury, weak leg and bike racing history,” recalled Anne, who two years ago raced to fourth in her age group on her debut at the World 24 Hour Solo Mountain Bike Championships.

She has clocked up numerous endurance titles since and was due to contest the 2012 world championships. She has not ridden her bike for almost a year after undergoing back surgery earlier this year, but has found the switch from pedalling to paddling a rewarding challenge.

“I had struggled on in denial trying unsuccessfully to race my bike, becoming increasingly frustrated and depressed with my weak leg limiting me.

“I was really very down about it until I was given this opportunity to do something completely different.

“In the time it took to eat half a muffin, I had gone from a frustrated endurance cyclist with a dodgy leg to a possible GB para sprint canoeist!”

She has been handed a four-year development and training programme which currently provides her with 11 training sessions a week in Nottingham and Surrey on the water and in the gym building up her muscles and using an indoor Ergo paddling machine to prepare her for a series of National Regattas in the Spring.

Anne describes the training as ‘brutal’ with a target of the European Championships in Portugal in June. If she medals there she will head for the World Championships in August, the start of her road to Rio.

“This is all very surreal for me but if I start doing well I will have to look seriously at how I balance my home life, the family, my business and my training. The children are behind me all the way, reminding me to do my training and encouraging me.

“If I make it to Rio I am going to be 50 which is just ridiculous,” she laughed.

“One door closes but another one opens. I still can’t believe that I made it onto the GB squad never having raced a canoe and having spent nothing on canoeing except petrol and precisely £6.99 on a pair of boat shoes!

“It just goes to show that anything is possible if you are open to change, want it enough and have the correct support around you.”

Louise Poynton, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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