Paralympic silver medallist Lauren Parker has become just the fifth Australian to successfully defend a World Paratriathlon Championship, with a stunning victory in Abu Dhabi.
The 32-year-old wheelchair paratriathlete scored an impressive win in her PTWC classification at the 2021 World Triathlon Para Championships around the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 circuit, to take the gold medal by almost four minutes.
Parker’s win came just three months after seeing Paralympic gold snatched from her grasp in the final second of a dramatic Tokyo finish.
But with her Paralympic conqueror Kendall Gretsch back in the US preparing for her second Winter Para Games in Nordic Skiing this February in Beijing, the Abu Dhabi race was all Parker’s.
Racing to her strengths the inspirational Parker opened up a commanding lead on the 750m swim and was never headed.
She covered the swim leg in 11 minutes 36 seconds – some 10 seconds faster than her Tokyo swim, before powering through the bike and run legs to take the victory in 1:05.24 from Brazil’s rising star Jessica Ferreira (1:09.19) and Spain’s Tokyo bronze medallist Eva Maria Pedrero (1:11.36).
For Parker it brought sheer relief and delight after overcoming the trauma of suffering third degree burns to her toes in Las Vegas as she prepared to race the first of her North American 70.3 Ironman Series events in St George.
Parker said in a Facebook post: “Today I raced the 2021 ITU Para-Triathlon World Championships in Abu Dhabi and I’m proud to say that I defended my title and became World Champion!
“I have had to overcome some physical and emotional setbacks since the Paralympics in my preparation for these world championships so it was a really special moment to cross the finish line with this result.”
Parker praised her handler, former surf lifesaving ironman and training partner Brad Fernley, Utah nurse Marcia Nell who treated the inspirational Australian when she attended the Utah burns clinic, and coach Dan Atkins.
“Thank you to my best friend Brad for being my handler in the race and for always being by my side every step of the way on my journey … and thank you also to my good friend Marcia Nell for being able to be here with me over the past week all the way from St George, Utah.
“And a massive thank you to my amazing coach Dan Atkins, we got another World Champ Title! “wrote Parker.
Parker joins Bill Chaffey, Sally Pilbeam, Katie Kelly and Emily Tapp as the fifth Australian to successfully defend a Paratriathlon World/Grand Final crown, having won her first title in Rotterdam in 2019.
In the Elite World Triathlon Series event in Abu Dhabi, NSW’s Natalie Van Coevorden finished 20th in the women’s race and the Gold Coast’s Brandon Copeland came 28th in the men’s category.