A WORCESTER competitor has triumphed over adversity and injury to win a place on the Great Britain para-rowing team for the World Championships.

Giedre Rakauskaite, 26, heads to Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida, USA, an area recently affected by Hurricane Irma, for the competition from September 24 until October 1.

Rakauskaite started rowing aged 14 when spotted by a talent scout in Lithuania but barely a year later her life was turned upside down by a car accident.

“My leg was pretty badly injured,” said the former University of Worcester student.

“They were talking about having to amputate but I told them they had to try harder to save it and as I went in to theatre the surgeons said they’d see what they could do.

“When I woke up I had no idea if they had been able to save my leg or not. Obviously I was pretty relieved to find it was still there.”

Following the accident Rakauskaite could not walk for almost a year but as soon as she was back on her feet wanted to be back in a boat.

She said: “I used to turn up at the rowing club on crutches and could tell some people were thinking ‘What’s she doing here? She can’t even walk’ but when we got out on the water and I beat them all I used to feel pretty pleased.”

Rakauskaite came to the university to study sports coaching science for six months in September 2011 but liked life in Worcester so much she decided to make it home.

She started a full programme at the university in January the next year and completed her degree in 2014.

“I chose Worcester because they had a good rowing club at the university and the UK is the top nation in the world for rowing,” she said.

“I loved studying here because we had so many opportunities to get hands on with coaching rather than just reading about it in a book.

“And the rowing was excellent too. With the university rowing club I learnt how to row British style, applying power in the right places to maximise results.”

After Rakauskaite finished her studies she stayed in Worcester, securing a job as rowing coach with Hereford Cathedral School and joining Worcester Rowing Club.

In 2015 a club coach met a recruiter from British Rowing at an event in Worcester and recommended Rakauskaite as a possible future star.

She had never thought to compete in para-rowing but after tests and assessments with GB she was invited to join their development programme.

Two years on and a decade since her accident Rakauskaite has joined GB’s premier boat the mixed coxed four who have won gold medals at the last two Paralympics.

“I always wanted to be an international athlete,” she said. “But this is just the first step. Now I want to go on and win things and work towards winning a place in the boat for Tokyo 2020.

“I never do things recreationally. All I care about is winning and giving 100 per cent. I’ve always worked hard even when there wasn’t an obvious reason to. It’s the only way I know.

“When I first got injured I wondered if my dream of being an international athlete had gone but now I feel like the window has opened where the door had closed.”