Paratriathlete: Lauren Parker set to compete in ITU world series grand final on Gold Coast

INSPIRING: Lauren Parker in Newcastle last week before heading to the world triathlon titles on the Gold Coast. Picture: Simone De Peak
INSPIRING: Lauren Parker in Newcastle last week before heading to the world triathlon titles on the Gold Coast. Picture: Simone De Peak

Lauren Parker was eyeing a world title.

But a less than ideal preparation, which involved emergency spinal surgery, means the Newcastle paratriathlete has not set herself any expectations for the International Triathlon Union (ITU) world championships on the Gold Coast this weekend.

Parker will line up in the women’s wheelchair race on Saturday, roughly six weeks after having fluid drained from her spinal cord.

“I started getting increasing loss of sensation down my right arm and then up my stomach to my chest,” the 29-year-old said. 

“It was from a cyst that was in the injury site and fluid got into my spinal cord and travelled up to my neck. 

“They don’t know if my spinal cord is actually damaged in my neck or not because I haven’t got the feeling back.”

Parker was unable to train for three-and-a-half weeks and felt underdone heading to the Gold Coast, where she produced a bronze medal performance at the Commonwealth Games in April less than 12 months after being paralysed from the waist down in a horrific training accident.

She said the right side of her upper body was noticeably weaker. 

“I can feel it [a loss of strength] in myself, but they said give it a couple more weeks,” Parker said.

“It put me out of training for about three-and-half weeks, which was a lot. I lose fitness quickly, so I’m not feeling that good in training at the moment.

“I definitely need the strength in my hands and my wrists to be able to get around those U-turns [in the course]. I don’t have full strength back yet and I’ve had to tape my push glove for the run to my hand because if I didn’t have that I’d drop it with this hand. I’ll probably take a bit longer in transition as well.”

Parker backed up her inspirational Commonwealth Games effort with world-beating performances in ITU World Cup races in France then Italy in June.

“Before my surgery my training was going so well and I was on my way to hopefully winning worlds but now I don’t know what the result will be,” Parker said.

“I’ll just see how I go. I may not finish, I may do really well … I’ll just do my best.”

Parker’s main focus has not wavered from pushing for gold at the Tokyo Paralympics in two years’ time.

“After worlds, there is nothing really until January, so I’ll just be training between now and then,” the Novocastrian said. 

“Next year is pretty full on. I’ve got about seven races to do, which are the races that will earn me points in my qualification for 2020, so they’re pretty important and I’ll be spending a couple of months at least in Europe.”