K4 kayaker Rebii Simon may be on her way to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, but one vital part of her training team won’t be on the plane – her nine teddy bears.
Like most collections, it started with one before escalating to take pride of place in competition hotel rooms, narrowly missing out on a place in the boat.
And the superstitions don’t stop there for Simon. The teenager, set to turn 20 in time for her first Games, keeps her hair and jewellery the same, while also enjoying Nutella for breakfast on each race day – even if she does have to convince her nutritionist.
It’s those personality quirks that have helped Simon – who also listens to her ‘happy song’ New Girl by Reggie ‘N’ Bollie before each race – mesh so well with new Rio crew members.
Forming the K4 500m squad alongside Rachel Cawthorn, Louisa Gurski and Jess Walker, Simon joins a unit already boasting Olympic experience following their exploits in London four years ago.
Selection for the Rio squad was straightforward, each of the quad finished in the top four of an individual race to make the team.
The next step, however, was not so simple: just five weeks after formation, Simon and co were thrust into a World Championships, while the Olympic Games will come just weeks after their first full year together.
And for Simon, her teddies, and her Nutella, Rio marks a step not even she believed could happen so soon.
“People wondered whether we could make it work in such a short amount of time together,” she said on the race which qualified the Team GB boat for the Games.
“It helped that they had done K4 before, and we were able to click instantly. If that hadn’t happened then five weeks would have been nowhere near enough.
“I had Rio in my head but until we raced in the Worlds last year I never thought I’d actually go.
“I knew it would be cool to go at such a young age, but I always saw Tokyo as being my Olympics, so it’s even more amazing.
“The fact we placed fifth at the World Championships shows there’s something special about this boat, particularly as we were just two seconds off the winner.
“I’ve got nine teddies, but I’m trying to cut them down because my bag is always overweight.
“They stay in the hotel room, watching over from there! Sort of my lucky omens, but I need to get over that they’re not the things that make me fast.
“I had one, then kept getting more and more and my dad brought one back from Beijing, and one came on as a present for Brazil so that has to come and it’s just things like that which kept adding up!”
But Simon’s dad, Miklos, has a role more important than that of the biggest fan of the 2014 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year nominee, born in Hungary before moving to the UK aged ten, by which time her time paddling was well underway.
Simon Sr. was himself a former kayaker, competing at international level before back injuries forced him out of an Olympics aged 20 – the same age Rebii will be at Rio.
Now a coach of the GB Olympic team, looking after Rebii since she was 13 years old, Hungarian hero Miklos is finally able to get Games experience of his own.
But for Rebii, this is more than just fulfilling a family dream, as the team look to capitalise on their impressive World Cup performance earlier this year, finishing a tenth of a second off a medal despite half of their team being struck with illness.
“I wouldn’t say the relationship he has is any different to the other girls – we’re able to switch between dad and coach mode,” she added.
“It’s weird in the sense that it doesn’t feel weird. In my younger years I looked up to him, I hoped for a day off school just so I could watch him coach the other girls.
“It was always my dream to be coached by him, so when it happened I was really happy.
“He doesn’t give me any more or less than anyone else, but on Sundays at home we make sure there’s no canoeing talk, my mum loves it but doesn’t want to hear about it every day.
“This is my biggest achievement, it’s not actually happened yet but it’s the dream and I’ve done that first step.
“Dad raced for Hungary and got Junior, European and World Championship medals, so I’m sort of taking his dream forward.
“But clearly I’m doing it myself. My mum was a swimmer, her dream was the Olympics but she never got there and my brother canoed but is now more into studying.”