From hitting rock bottom, adjusting to training in a wheelchair, and qualifying for Tokyo – Lauren Parker is going from strength to strength.
It’s hard not to be inspired by Lauren Parker, an Australian Paralympian from Newcastle in New South Wales, who will be competing in the Tokyo Games this week (her event, the triathlon, is on the 29th).
It’s a long process to get her there (including over 6 hours of testing and paperwork on arrival in Tokyo) and then an Australia-only covid bubble in the village. Yet, the difficult processes are worth it to Parker, who has overcome so much to be in the games.
Once an able-bodied triathlete, Parker was injured in a serious training accident in 2017, which left her paralysed.
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Speaking on Body+Soul’s daily podcast Healthy-ish, she says she came back from a really dark time after her accident through her training and newfound purpose in para-athletics.
“The last 12 years I have been competing triathlons as an able bodied athlete, but I had my accident and then probably four months after my accident, while I was in rehab, I found out that paratriathlon existed,” she tells host Felicity Harley on the Healthy-ish episode Paralympian Lauren Parker’s determination deserves gold.
“I was able to get back into the sport that I loved. That gave me hope for my future. Basically, it was a lifesaver, literally a lifesaver.”
Parker found out the Commonwealth Games weren’t too far away and decided the time was right to start training.
“I ended up signing myself out of hospital, because it was getting really negative in there and I just wanted to get back into training and set goals to work towards,” she says.
“That’s exactly what I did. I came out and got myself the equipment that I needed with a hand cycle and a racing wheelchair…My first race was nine months after my accident day.”
On that race, Parker qualified for the Commonwealth Games, something she never would have dreamt of doing so close to such a serious accident, and just 11 months after that fateful day she competed in the Games.
“It was a short journey but a long journey at the same time – getting used to the new equipment, using a hand cycle for the bike and the racing wheelchair is very technical for the run leg. But I got there,” she adds.
She’s certainly no stranger to hard work.
Her training program is extensive and requires high levels of endurance. She usually does:
- Five swims a week up to 4.5 kilometres
- Five bike sessions a week at 70 to 80 kilometres a session
- Five run sessions
- A couple of gym sessions per week
And remember, all of that training is with her arms, which she then uses to move around – so it can be hard to get rest time.
Race day also sounds like it will be a intense.
“I’m really looking forward to the hot weather there. I love the heat and humidity so that that works to my advantage,” Parker explains.
“But yeah, race day will come up quickly and I’ve got an early start at 6:30AM in Tokyo, but I’ll be up at like 3:00AM preparing, having a light meal for energy and keeping my fluids up.”
“I know that the Australian triathlon team have organised slushies, because it’s going to be so hot over there – to keep cool – and ice vests…If everything works out well, I’ll bring home that gold medal,” she adds.
Lauren Parker may be athlete goals, but she also is a strong advocate for others who are also living with disability. She’s actually working with The Iconic on an adaptive edit, of 130 clothing pieces designed to make it easier for people with disabilities to get dressed.
They have fits for prosthetics, magnetic buttons for ease of use and other smart technologies, without compromising on fashion.
“I’m so honoured to be a part of it,” Parker says. “It embraces inclusivity and provides hope for people with disabilities that they can feel good in what they’re wearing.”
“It improves quality of life as well.”
Parker is the model for the Tommy Hilfiger adaptive range.
“I’ve never known these brands to have adaptive-wear. So to actually see it and to try the gear on, which was so high quality and to see what other adaptations have taken place since, it was really cool.”
Find out more about Lauren, here, or via Instagram, @laurenparker2127. For more info on The Iconic’s Adaptive Edit launch, click here.
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