BEING selected for the Great Britain para-rowing team was once an unthinkable prospect for Worcester’s Giedre Rakauskaite.

But against all odds she geared up for her second World Championships which have been running this week.

She started rowing aged 14 when spotted by a talent scout in Lithuania but one year later her life was turned upside down by a car accident, leaving her unable to walk for 12 months.

Rakauskaite never thought to compete in para-rowing but fast forward a decade and she was winning gold at the 2017 World Rowing Championships with Great Britain’s mixed coxed four — the reigning Paralympic champions.

Having been forced to sit out the 2018 season with injury, finding out she had been re-selected for the 2019 edition was a euphoric moment for the 28-year-old who is determined to get back to her best.

“I never expected to be in this position,” said Rakauskaite.

“I’ve had to put so much work in to get to where I am and the whole time I knew there was the risk of anyone coming along and stealing my seat.

“I always had to fight for my place in the squad. I never wanted to be a charity case. I wanted to be in the mixed four because I deserved to be there.

“I am very grateful to my coach who didn’t just pass me as another horse with a broken leg. It was the perfect marriage of coach-athlete relationship where he knew how to harness my ability perfectly.

“The only reason I would have ever lost rowing would have been because of my own mindset. I’m thrilled to make the squad after the year I’ve had.”

Few of the athletes arriving in Austria for the World Rowing Championships will bear the weight of expectation quite like Great Britain’s mixed coxed four.

They are not only the reigning champions but are also out to defend their eight-year World Championship winning streak.

And even for Rakauskaite, who has already triumphed over the most adverse circumstances in her rowing career, the task feels greater than any other.

She continued: “I feel like I have very big shoes to fill at the World Championships — anything else other than gold will be a disappointment because of how big our boat is.

“That’s how we feel going into the races every year because this track record is so hard to maintain.

“And of course Tokyo qualification is very important for the whole squad — we want to qualify as many seats as possible.

“Winning at the worlds would be a huge confidence boost for me personally too.

“If we win it will be a relief mentally and physically to know I can still perform at the highest level given my setbacks.

“Even in a Tokyo year no one’s seat is safe so I have to perform at this event.”

Sainsbury’s is proud of its continued sponsorship of ParalympicsGB. They are the first Paralympic partner starting in 2012 and committed to continue support until 2020. Sainsbury’s want to take an active role in inspiring future generations.