Inspirational wheelchair athlete Lauren Parker has added the prestigious Hawaii Ironman to her ever-growing list of sporting goals.
Parker, who was recently announced as a national nominee for “The Don” Award alongside Newcastle training partner Kurt Fearnley, will travel to Kona later this week ahead of the famed world championship race on October 13.
The Cooranbong-based 29-year-old has a few guest speaking engagements and will support a few friends competing, all while scoping out the course herself with an eye towards taking part in 2021 and moving towards longer distance events.
“I love it [Hawaii Ironman],” Parker told the Newcastle Herald.
“I’m planning on racing it in 2021. I’m training over there this time, go over the course and see how I handle it with the hand cycle.
“I love ironman. It’s where my heart is.
“Doing the short distance is great and I’m loving it at the moment and I want to get to 2020 [Tokyo Paralympics] and win that.
“But ironman is where I want to be.”
Parker participated in the 2014 and 2015 editions of the Hawaii Ironman as an able-bodied triathlete.
A training accident in April last year left her paralysed from the waist down.
She had emergency surgery on her spine recently.
“It’s an amazing event. It’s nothing like any other ironman event.
“I could go back every year,” she said.
“I was lucky enough to race it twice. That’s the top. That’s what I was aiming for as a professional before [my accident].
“It will bring back a lot of memories [being there again].”
The overseas adventure means Parker won’t be able to attend the Sport Australia Hall Of Fame presentation in Melbourne next Thursday night (October 11).
Parker’s invitation comes via recognition for an incredible 18-month period.
Starting with survival and followed by recovery before returning to elite competition and claiming bronze medals on the Gold Coast at both the Commonwealth Games in April and the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in September.
She was one of eight Australians shortlisted for “The Don” Award, named after late cricket icon Sir Donald Bradman and given to a current athlete who has most inspired the nation by their achievements and example throughout the last year.
“It’s definitely an honour and a privilege to be nominated,” Parker said.
“Just being named in the same sentence as Sir Donald Bradman is special enough.”
Fearnley, en route to the US to race the Chicago and New York marathons over the next few weeks, scored his fourth nomination for “The Don” Award following a golden swansong on home soil at the Commonwealth Games six months ago.
The other potential recipients for 2018 are Madison De Rozario (wheelchair athlete), Sam Kerr (football), Ellyse Perry (cricket), Will Power, Daniel Ricciardo (motorsport) and Mark Knowles (hockey).
Brisbane boxer Jeff Horn won it last year.
Meanwhile, Parker has been announced as the official ambassador for QBE insurance company.
“QBE have helped me and [coach] Brad Fernley since day one,” Parker said.
“They’ve been a massive support and really showed their care towards us. We were very lucky.
“I’m looking forward to a long partnership with them.”