Chelsey Dixon, BSc (Hons) Biomedical Health
How did you first get into kayaking and when did you decide this was something you wanted to do professionally?
I initially got into kayaking through a charity that I got involved with when I was a teenager. I was diagnosed with a rare high grade cancer in my thigh, brain and lungs when I was 14 and the aggressive treatment left me with a lot of weakness in my legs and ankles. I got invited on a weeklong outward bounds trip with an amazing charity called Climbing Out. I loved it and ended up going back multiple times and volunteering. The lady who owns/runs the charity, Kelda Wood, was on the British Paracanoe programme herself and, after finding this out and thinking that it was extremely cool, I asked if I could have a go in her kayak. She pointed me in the direction of the programme leader and I was invited for a trial to see how I found it. I've always been an outdoorsy person and I've always loved my sport; I couldn't live without it. After not being able to do sport for 5 years, it's safe to say that I fell in love with kayaking almost immediately! I think I knew pretty much from the start that I was going to try everything I could to make kayaking a profession!
What was involved in becoming an athlete for the British Paracanoe Squad?
It has been a big challenge having to adapt my life for the training and lifestyle required. I've had to reduce my working hours, change my nutrition, fix my sleeping patterns. The process to get me to where I have been as already been a long journey. I started on an initial talent ID programme in which British Canoeing select potential new athletes. I went on a few different weekend and weeklong trips to the training centre in Nottingham with other Talent ID athletes. This period involved them making sure that I fit into their classification system. After this, I was put on a temporary 3 month funding and my training load was increased. This was to see how I dealt with the extent of the training load and if I had the mental and physical aspects required to be an athlete. I was then put onto my current funding and have been training full time, 4-5 days a week since May since I finished uni for summer.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced becoming an athlete?
I feel like my biggest challenge has been time management. Having to rearrange my life to fit into the training sessions, training camps, workshops, competitions, testing, physio. It is a complete life style change that has taken a little while to adjust to but I feel like I have maximised my time the best I can.
I also struggled this year with an injury. I developed a shoulder injury which put me out of training for a long time. I was on reduced water time and 0 gym. I felt like I was falling behind all of the new talent. It was very hard on my mental state. But after months of daily rehab and physio, I could feel that my injury was improving and now it is much better and I'm getting back into full time training.
What has it been like juggling your studies at the UoD and training?
It's not been too hard yet because during my first year, I was only training two days a week and was at uni for the other three days a week. My challenge will be going back for my second year in a few weeks and trying to maintain as much of my 4-5 day programme that I can. I have sat with my coaches and discussed a plan to try and get the best out of my student-athlete lifestyle.
What would you say to anyone interested in studying alongside professional sports training?
Do it. My biggest bit of advice would be communication. If you speak to your coaches and speak to your university, there is always a way around any issues that arise. I have been pleasantly surprised at how accommodating Derby University has been in regards to any queries or concerns that I have had.