When Lauren Parker, a professional triathlete, was riding her bike at a 2017 training session, disaster struck when both tyres of her bike burst after running over two screws that had been used to keep traffic monitoring cables in place. She crashed – at speed – into the guard railing alongside the road. She was rushed to Royal North Shore hospital with a long list of serious injuries.

However, when the surgeon who’d operated on her back said she was a nought to one percent chance of walking again, Parker’s response was a blunt ‘Get Lost’. With just a few months preparation she represented Australia at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and famously won a bronze medal. She has established herself as one of Australia’s most inspiring athletes.  

“If I was one millimetre on either side of them, I would have been fine,” said Parker of the accident in 2017.

“I broke my shoulder, four broken ribs, punctured lung, broken pelvis, broken back and obviously spinal cord damage, which left me instantly paralysed from the waist down. It changed my life in a split second. I went into hospital for spinal fusion surgery, and then they told me that I’ll never walk again, that I need to live the rest of my life in a wheelchair.

“After three months in hospital and three months in rehab, I signed myself out because it was really negative. They told me I’ll never be an athlete again. And that I’ll need to learn to live the rest of my life in a wheelchair. Around that time, I found that Para Triathlon existed.

“It gave me hope that I could get back into my sport. It saved my life. So, I did what I could to get the necessary equipment a hand cycle, and racing wheelchair. I did my first race in January of 2018.

Parker won the silver medal at the Tokyo Paralympics; she is an eight-times world champion in multiple disciplines of her sport [and Para Cycling!] She will compete in Para Triathlon and Para Cycling at Paris.

Ahead of this Friday’s International Women’s Day, the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) has sought the passionate testimonies of some of our highest achievers to provide their raw insights into what gives them the strength and the character to continue pushing themselves when others give up.

While NSWIS has handpicked the insights of just eight of its athletes, there’s literally hundreds of just as equally stirring stories among the women who are either scholarship holders or who work at the Institute where they provide the athletes with world class support.

Lauren Parker is a ‘Woman of Wonder’ this International Women’s Day.

{Quotes taken from Aus Cycling feature on Lauren Parker (June 2023)

Daniel Lane, NSWIS

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