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Exclusive: Paracanoeist Anne Dickins opens up about her inspiring journey to the Paralympics

Julie Delahaye

With the Paralympics set to kick off later this month, the final countdown is on for the athletes as they up their training and prepare to head to Rio. Encouraging the British public to show their support as part of Sainsburys' Supercharge campaign is paracanoeist Anne Dickins, who decided just seven weeks ago to try out for Great Britain's squad – and succeeded.

"To be on Paralympics GB, I guess all along I've said my goal is to get to Rio but I hadn't really thought I'd get there," she told HELLO! Online exclusively. "I had always thought there were so many reasons why someone else would be faster or would beat me, and then the moment when I kept on winning and I was at the selection race and I won, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I really am. I'm the one going to Rio.' It suddenly all caught up with me."

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Anne Dickins will be competing at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro

She added: "I'm actually going to be representing my country in a sport that I only started four years ago. I had this immense feeling of pride. I'm just amazed that I've managed to do it. I mean, it's not every day that you get to represent your country on a world stage."

It's an impressive achievement, considering Anne first tried kayaking in 2012. The British champion had previously been an endurance mountain biker, but a back injury in 2011 left her with a weak leg meaning she could no longer ride her bike.

Admitting that the experience left her in a "dark place", Anne chose to take up volunteering, and found herself signing up to be a Games Maker at the 2012 Olympics in London. It was there that a chance encounter piqued her interest in kayaking.

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She took up kayaking four years ago

"I just happened to bump into this other Games Maker who was a GB paracanoe coach and we got chatting," she said. "He said, 'Have you ever tried kayaking because, okay your leg doesn't work but maybe you'd be okay in a boat'."

Despite suffering from "horrendous seasickness", Anne confessed her surroundings inspired her to give it a try. "It was just something about the Olympics," she said. "It was so inspiring and there were so many people doing incredible things and the athletes performing wonderful, wonderful things."

After a few sessions Anne's potential became evident to coaches, and she began practicing the sport. However, earlier this year, the 49-year-old decided to take her fitness to the next level, and train for the Paralympics. Seven weeks later, Anne aced the GB trials and made the squad.

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Anne is supporting the Sainsbury's Supercharge campaign

"I've just had this amazing journey ever since, where I've gone from thinking my life was going in one direction and it just did a massive sideways turn," she confessed. "Now in a couple weeks' time I'm going to be paddling at Rio, for Paralympics GB for my country and I can't quite get my head around it if I'm honest!"

She admitted that to get the extra boost of inspiration, she looked to the achievements of other athletes who succeeded in a similar time frame.  

"Helen Glover is brilliant. I look up to her," she revealed. "I think it's always easy to imagine yourself doing something when someone else has achieved it before you. Helen Glover, when she went into 2012, she started rowing four years before that – and then she went on to get gold at London."

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Also taking part are athletes Sam Ingram, Pam Relph MBE and Jack Rutter

Taking part in the Supercharge campaign, Anne urged fans to get involved and help raise money for the British Paralympic Association.

"Not only can they support us with their cheers, they can support us practically as well by doing something really simple by going to Sainsbury's and doing their weekly shop," she said." "One product/one donation is going to make such a massive difference. Both knowing that people back home are supporting us but also knowing that it's giving us the best equipment we can have."

Athletes representing ParalympicsGB kick-start a new campaign from P&G and Sainsbury’s raising money for the BPA. One P&G product = one donation, exclusively at Sainsbury’s until 20th September. Check stores for more information. Registered charity no. 802385 (England/Wales).

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