A Totnes woman has taken the world of powerlifting by storm - going from complete novice to European champion in less than a year.

Francesca Dennis, who is due to represent Team GB in the sport’s world championships in November, started her incredible journey in January after a fellow gym-goer encouraged her to take it up.

The 23-year-old tried it out for fun, but got hooked and challenged herself to be the best she could be.

Three months later at the qualifying championships in Surrey, she broke two British records in bench and deadlift, earning a place in the British Championships in Birmingham in May.

Francesca’s intense training routine paid off when she smashed her own newly set British records to scoop first place in the competition and the chance to compete at the European Championships.

Her achievement is all the more incredible as she was competing with a dislocated rib and a torn abdominal muscle.

“I just put on a compression belt and put up with the pain,” she said.

The following month, Francesca entered and won the European Championships in her Junior U75kg class, scoring a personal best deadlift of 155kg.

Poised to represent Britain in the powerlifting world championships in Finland later this year, Francesca described her achievements as “surreal”.

“I’m so proud of myself,” she said. “It’s been amazing. Everyone asks how on earth have I done this in six months. It’s surreal. I literally didn’t think I’d ever do it.”

“I started powerlifting for fun, but then I wanted to challenge myself.

“I was just doing general training in the gym in January when a guy who was training as well approached me and said I looked quite strong, so why didn’t I give it a go?

“I’m up for trying things and I love every type of sport.

“He invited me to a training session with a group of powerlifters and I just fell in love with it.”

Unable to afford a coach at the beginning, Francesca, who works as a chef at Bens Wine and Tapas, taught and motivated herself to train for the championships.

She said: “I had been boxing for nine years, but the training for that is completely different; it’s cardio based.

“I was doing normal gym workouts, nothing impressive.

“Training for powerlifting was hard work. I had 12 weeks to prepare for the first qualifier.

“I then had four weeks to prepare for the British Championships.

“At that time I didn’t have a proper coach, I was teaching myself from videos.”

Francesca must raise £1,000 to take part in the powerlifting world championships in Helsinki between November 6 to 10 and is seeking sponsorship from local companies.

She said: “This amazing opportunity is going to cost me a lot of money and there is no money in the sport to help fund me.

“I have 13,800 followers on Instagram, and in return for sponsorship, I am offering shout outs on social media and company names printed on my team GB kit.”

Anyone willing to help can phone Francesca on 07944 855 300 or email her at [email protected].