Lauren Parker's customary beaming smile was back as she completed the Maitland Triathlon swim leg at Morpeth in the seventh fastest women's time.
In just her third open-water swim since a training accident in April left her paralysed from the waist down, Parker was third fastest in the team event surpassing her expectations.
“It was so good to be out there, it was awesome,” Parker flanked by her swimming partner Brad Fernley said.
“I felt really good I was just concentrating on my stroke. It was a tough swim, but I got through it with the help of Brad swimming next to me. It was great support.”
There is a great sense of fun between the two, with Parker mockingly complaining that Fernley needed to work on his transition from the water.
“I passed a few people and I was quite surprised, but I think the slowest part was when Brad was getting me out of the water.
“I’m like, ‘Come on, come on, I didn’t work this hard to pass everyone’. Then he got in my chair and it was like a cross-country race and I nearly fell out.
“But it was all fun.”
Parker was joined by cyclist Glen Landers and marathon runner Vlad Shatrov in the Lauren Parker Foundation team in Sunday’s triathlon
Fernley was delighted with Parker’s effort and progress in her return to the sport.
“She is going fine. This was her third open-water swim which is really good. Her speed is starting to get better and since we’ve come back from San Diego (at the Challenged Athletes Foundation triathlon) we’ve learned a lot<” he said.
“Things like tying Lauren’s knees up instead of her ankles give her more flotation and we’ve had a couple of meetings now with Andrew Dawes and Kurt Fernley. Andrew’s been kind enough to say he can help Lauren out and Kurt’s been amazing for her.”
Three-time Paralympic gold medalist Kurt Fernley and Parlympic wheelchair coach Dawes are helping Parker with her goal of earning a spot at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
Parker has set her sights on completing a full triathlon by Februrary or March next year.
“That will be a sprint distance, 750m swim, 20km bike or hand-cycle and 5km in the track chair, racing chair
“It’s a lot of training between now and then but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
The other huge event on Parker’s horizon is the Lauren Parker Foundation Ball on March 17.
“I’m so looking forward to it,” she said.
“The foundation committee has done such a great job in supporting me and organising the ball. I’m so looking forward to having a great night.”
People wanting to purchase tickets to the ball or support Lauren in any other way can go to the Lauren Parker Foundation website at laurenparkerfoundation.com.au