There will be many inspiring stories in Sunday's Maitland Triathlon, but none more so than Lauren Parker's.
Triathlete Parker is taking part in the 1500m swim leg a little more than six months after a freak training accident left her paralysed from the waist down.
In April, the 28-year-old’s life was thrown upside down when on a routine training ride near Raymond Terrace both her tyres blew. She crashed into a guard rail and was left paralysed from the impact.
Parker said returning to swimming had been pivotal in her recovery both physically and mentally.
The Maitland Triathlon at Morpeth will be her third foray back into competition.
She completed the 1000 metre swim legs at last month’s Nepean and Noosa triathlons, but unfortunately a big swell forced the cancellation of the 1.6km swim leg at the Challenged Athletes Foundation triathlon in San Diego on October 22.
“The trip to San Diego was great for me as I got to meet so many people facing the same issues as me,” she said.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get to swim as the swell was too rough, but I got so much out of it.
“I hate being in a wheelchair, but that’s where I am at the moment. There are so many things which affect your daily life which able bodied people just wouldn’t consider.
“There are good days and tough days. I just try to look at the positives and the huge support I’ve received from friends and family and the triathlon community has helped so much.
“I love my sport and getting back into swimming and setting goals has been so important for me.
“Triathlon Australia has been fantastic, we have set goals for me to compete at the 2020 Paralympics and a few other goals along the way.
“It’s given me something to focus on and if I can inspire others by achieving those goals it would be great.”
Parker will team up with cyclist Glen Landers and top 10 Australian marathon runner Vlad Shatrov in Sunday’s triathlon.
She said wearing wetsuit pants gave her enough buoyancy to stop her legs from sinking.
“In training, when I was a swimmer, we used to do sets where we tied our feet together, but it’s nothing like that. Your legs just sink,” she said.
“I’ve managed to get my stroke back and the wetsuit pants keep my legs from sinking. I’m able to do sessions up to 4km in the pool and I’ve had the two ocean swims now at the Nepean and Noosa triathlons.”
Friends have established the Lauren Parker Foundation to help raise funds for her ongoing medical treatment and journey through recovery and competition.
“It’s been great to be involved in organising some of the events. We’ve got the Lauren Parker Foundation Ball coming up in March which is exciting “
You can cheer Lauren and the other athletes taking part in the Maitland Triathlon from 7.15am on Sunday.