Anne Dickins’ story is the stuff of movies. The 49-year-old mum of two hadn’t even sat in a canoe four years ago. She’s now two-time paracanoe world champion, three-time European champion, a world record holder and is the new holder of a Paralympic gold medal.
A back injury in 2011 left the Surrey physiotherapist with a permanently weak right leg and put an end to her first love – endurance mountain biking. It also made the transition to kayaking far from easy. “I have reduced connection between my right leg and the footplate [inside the canoe] and my right hip and torso, which makes doing a symmetrical, rotational power sport quite a challenge!” Anne explains. “I also have loss of sensation and reduced coordination through the leg, making it harder still.”
To compound matters, Anne developed a serious rib strain in her first race season that was put down to the asymmetrical power she produced in her body.
“I was in real discomfort until I discovered DM Orthotics’ compression shorts,” she says. “They give me enough support in training to help stabilise my weak right side, while distributing the pressure evenly so that I could wear them comfortably even in long training sessions. The end result is that I have not had any rib pain since using DMO shorts and a back and intermittent groin pain I’d experienced since my injury have also been significantly reduced. This has meant that I have been able to train more consistently.”
One benefit Anne hadn’t anticipated was that the shorts instantly improved her balance in the water. “For the first time I was able to turn my full attention to learning how to put more power into paddling rather than just staying upright!”
So does the KL3 canoeist think she can sustain this level of performance till Tokyo? “Parasport has taught me anything’s possible,” says Anne “I’m rewriting the book in a way because there are no guidelines on elite sport for 49-year-old women. it just hasn’t happened. So we shall see!”