Australia's Parker makes history-making comeback to Ironman as Para triathlete

Paralympic silver medallist returns to the Ironman stage for the first time since the 2017 accident that left her with paraplegia 09 May 2022
Lauren Parker, wearing the Australian kit but no shoes, rides her handbike on a cement road during the women's PTWC final at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Lauren Parker returned to the Ironman World Championship this weekend, five years after getting injured while training for an able-bodied Ironman race.
ⒸRobert Cianflone/Getty Images
By Triathlon Australia and IPC

Lauren Parker completed her first Ironman World Championship as a Para triathlete on Saturday, 8 May and also become the first Australian woman to finish the event in the handcycle division.

The 33-year-old crossed the finish line in St. George, USA in a time of 14 hours and 47 seconds, after completing a 3.8km swim, 180km ride and 42.2km run.

Formerly a competitive able-bodied triathlete, this weekend's race was Parker’s first Ironman since suffering serious injuries in a training accident in 2017. Her earlier milestones as a Para triathlete include winning silver in the women’s PTWC race at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and back-to-back world championship titles.

“It was a really tough day out, one of the toughest I've ever had in my life,” said Parker. “I had a decent swim in the cold waters of St. George and I got onto the bike and I was feeling pretty good right from the start and got stronger as the day went on and I got to put a good bike together in seven and a half hours, and that was my goal. 
“I was all on track to getting the time that I wanted and on that run though, I've been talking all week about how brutal that bike course is but that run course was probably more brutal than ever,” she said. “It's the hardest thing I've done so just to get through that run course, that second lap I really had to dig deep and to get up those hills was a really big challenge for me in a racing wheelchair. I proved to myself that anything is possible if you believe in yourself and never give up.”

Back to Ironman

This year is a year like no other for Ironman with the rescheduled 2021 Ironman World Championship held over the first May weekend in Utah, ahead of the 2022 Supersapians Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, to be held in October. 
The Ironman World Championship was held for the first time after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

St. George became the first location to host the event outside of Hawaii since its origins in 1978 and the course a challenging one for all. 
“It is a beautiful course but on race day, in race time I'm not looking at the scenery I'm looking at the road ahead and thinking about the pain I'm in and how I'm going to conquer the course,” Parker said. “All week being here in St. George in Utah I've been over the course quite a few days and the scenery is absolutely magnificent and I couldn't ask for a better place to have the Ironman World Championships for my first Ironman.”

Parker had success at the Ironman World Championship as an able-bodied athlete, notably finishing second in her age group in 2015.

She was training for another triathlon race in 2017 when both of her bike tires burst, causing her to crash into the guard railing. The crash damaged her spinal cord and left her with a punctured lung as well as broken ribs, shoulder blade and pelvis.

Following her successful comeback in St. George, Parker now has her sights set on Kona in October.

“Hundred per cent, that's what I've been waiting for since my accident is Kona Ironman World Championship, that's where my heart is,” said Parker. “I did it twice as an able-bodied athlete and I can't wait to get back there as a Para athlete and see what I can do.”