IMOGEN Walsh may be a former World Champion and reigning European Champion but the biggest fight of her rowing career is still to come. Despite having accumulated a significant medal haul, the 31 year-old has never been to an Olympic Games, and that is something that she wants to rectify. Walsh, from Inverness, is a lightweight rower and with only a single lightweight category – the double sculls – included in the Olympic programme, competition for a place in Team GB is fierce.

It will be no easy task for Walsh to force her way in – the strength of the British rowing team is well-known and so over the next 11 months, Walsh must prove that she is deserving of one of the two available seats in the boat.

The Scot has a chance to set down a marker over the next week when she will compete in the World Championships which begin in Aiguebelette, France, tomorrow. Walsh will be rowing in the lightweight single sculls, the event in which she became European champion in May, but this is, unfortunately for her, not an Olympic category.

A strong performance would boost her cause for a double sculls seat considerably but the Scot remains coy about her goals. “I do have a target for the Worlds but it’s just in my head,” she says.

“First and foremost, I want to be satisfied with my performance whatever result that produces and it goes without saying that I want to row my best. I can’t control what my opposition are going to do but I can control my own performance and hopefully that’s good enough to achieve the position I want.”

Walsh is less reticent when talking about her Olympic ambitions though. “I want to be in Rio next year and that will only happen if I get into the double,” she says. “But it’s a very strong squad for the lightweight women and it’s going to be very close to see who gets selected.”

Walsh had a seat in the double sculls for the 2014 season but an illness over the winter months hampered her training and she lost her place in that boat for this year. It was, she admits, a frustrating time. “There were some really dark times in the winter. It’s horrible when you know that your body needs to rest and not train but training is what we do,” she explains.

“But my only option was to take a step back and let my body recover. There’s obviously some aspects of that which were detrimental but the up side is that it teaches you how to be strong mentally.”

Walsh’s path into rowing was somewhat unusual; at primary school, she was a cox but it was not until she left school that she really got into the sport. A student at Glasgow University, she returned to coxing until at one session, a rower was absent. Walsh was pulled in as a replacement and from that moment on, she was no longer a cox.

After leaving university she began sculling, which is where she found her calling. Walsh went to her first British Trials as a 26-year-old in 2010, did remarkably well, and six months later had given up her job with the charity Mary’s Meals and relocated to British Rowing’s training base in London.

“It all escalated pretty quickly,” she admits. “I had the philosophy that I’d rather try and fail than not try at all and my intention is still to go back to international development at some point. But that’s something that I can do at any age whereas rowing was something I had to do there and then or not at all. It was definitely a risk but thankfully it paid off.”

Despite being a member of one of Britain’s most successful high-performance sports squads, Walsh gives off the impression that she can’t quite believe that she is really a part of it. “I’d describe myself as a bit of a rowing geek – I just love it,” she says.

“I really enjoy both the training and the racing and I do feel exceptionally lucky that I’m able to do something I love every day. I still have to pinch myself that this is my job and it still feels unreal, even after four years.” If Walsh makes it onto the plane to Rio next summer, it will become even more surreal.