We first met Prachi Yadav at a paracanoe talent identification camp at the 2019 ICF world championships in Szeged, Hungary.

She was very much one of the new kids on the block, trying her hand at a new sport on top of the water, after many years of competing in the water.

At the time, Tokyo was only one year away, and her chances of getting to a Paralympics were slim at best.

Yadav was a champion para-swimmer for India, but switched to paracanoe at the urging of her coach, who realised she had a better chance of getting to a Paralympics in this new sport. Prachi has long arms, and the coach thought this would serve her well as a paddler.

Paris 2024 was pencilled in as the long-term goal.

But then Covid arrived, the world was turned on its head, and athletes like Prachi Yadav suddenly had an extra 12 months to prepare.

Except of course it wasn’t as simple as that. 12 months is a long time to work on your technique and your fitness, but when the world is in lockdown, getting onto the water and into competition is almost impossible.

Athletes have needed to adapt.

I’ve only been able to spend three months on the water training in the past 12

“I’ve been training at home, doing yoga and workouts, push-ups, chin-ups – but no water exercises because of Covid,” Prachi said.

“I’ve only been able to spend three months on the water training in the past 12.”

But the 25-year-old must have been doing something right during this time. She has slashed seconds off her time from the 2019 ICF Paracanoe World Championships in Szeged. If she can translate that improvement into her race at next month’s Paralympic qualifiers in Hungary, maybe there will be a ticket to Tokyo waiting for her.

As long as she can get to Europe in the first place.

“I’m feeling nervous but excited about Szeged,” she said this week.

“My timing has improved a lot. I feel ready to compete. But it will be difficult to travel to Hungary because I don’t think flights are open to Europe. I don’t really know how I will get there, but hopefully I will get some support from my Government because it is a Paralympic qualifier.”

When we spoke Prachi still had not had the Covid vaccine, but she is expecting to have had the jab by the May Paralympic qualifiers. She’s well aware of the risks, but having done all the hard work, she wants to pursue her dream in her adopted sport.

“I loved it from the start,” she said.

“I started with a kayak, which was easy for me, but I needed to do canoe to try and qualify for the Paralympics. Canoe is much harder.

“I bought my own boat, and I train on the flatwater at Bhopal. It’s a good venue, we were supposed to have the world dragonboat championships there.”

My timing has improved a lot. I feel ready to compete

Prachi still loves swimming. Last month she competed in India’s national para swimming championships, winning four gold and one silver medal. But she knows she is a long way off getting to the Paralympics in the pool.

Her decision to switch to canoe has brought other changes to Prachi’s life. In June last year she married fellow paracanoe athlete Manish Kaurav. Her paddling career is also giving her family a great deal of satisfaction.

“My family’s financial condition is not the best, so I am doing what I can to support them. They are very excited,” she said.

“Unfortunately my mum died from cancer, but my father is supporting me a lot.”

The 2021 ICF Paracanoe World Cup is scheduled for Szeged, Hungary, from May 13-15.