The 32-year-old wheelchair paratriathlete scored an impressive win in her PTWC classification at the 2021 World Triathlon Para Championships staged in oppressive conditions in and around the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 circuit, to take the gold medal by almost four minutes.
The smile on Parker’s face when she crossed the finish line said it all with the sweet taste of success coming 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 coming February in Beijing, yesterday’s race was all Parker’s.
Racing to her strengths the inspirational Parker, who has suffered another traumatic time post the Tokyo Games when she suffered third degree burns to her toes, 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) again in third.
For Parker it brought sheer relief and delight to another dramatic chapter in an extraordinary career and 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.
In an emotionally-charged Facebook post after her Abu Dhabi victory Parker said: “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 then went on to praise her best friend and handler, former surf lifesaving ironman and training partner Brad Fernley and one of her newest friends, Utah nurse Marcia Nell, who treated the inspirational Australian when she attended the Utah burns clinic and has attended every race since as well as her coach with the Gold Coast Performance Centre 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... I couldn’t ask for anyone else to share this moment with,” wrote Parker.
“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...it means so much.
“I had the absolute best support team and a massive thank you to my amazing coach Dan Atkins, we got another World Champ Title! And to my team… I couldn’t be here without you!”
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 Lausanne in 2019.
Chaffey was a Paratri-trail blazer having won five-ITU wheelchair world titles at the Grand Finals between 2009 and 2015; WA arm amputee Pilbeam won back-to-back PT3 World Championships in 2014 and 2015.
Kelly, who won Paralympic gold in Rio with guide Michellie Jones in 2016 defended her 2015 title with Sydney Olympic silver medallist Jones in 2017 while luckless Tokyo Paralympian Tapp won back-to-back PTWC world titles in 2017 and on the Gold Coast in 2018.
Parker will now return home to Newcastle after her long tour of duty, her sights firmly set on the Paris 2024 Paralympics.
Meanwhile in the Elite World Triathlon Series event in Abu Dhabi, NSW’s Natalie Van Coevorden (20th) in the women’s race and the Gold Coast’s Brandon Copeland (28th) in the men’s race were the best placed of the Australian contingent in the final WTCS event of 2021.
The women’s race saw Olympic and world number one, Bermuda’s Flora Duffy (55.41) keep the British trio of Georgia Taylor-Brown (55.53), Sophie Coldwell (56.11) and Jessica Learmonth (56.27) at bay to finish 2021 on a further high.
The British team, out in force in Abu Dhabi finished with seven women in the top 12.
The men’s race saw Belgium’s Jelle Geens (52.20) return to the top of the podium winning a thriller with prolific Frenchman Vincent Luis (52.25) finishing second in his 100th World Series race ahead of Hungary’s Bence Bicsak (52.28).
2021 World Triathlon Para Championships Abu Dhabi
PTWC Women Results
Lauren Parker GOLD
2021 World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi
Elite Men Results
Brandon Copeland 28th
Marcel Walkington 33rd
Aaron Royle 37th
Matt Hauser 42nd
Nat Van Coevorden 20th
Charlotte McShane 27th
Kira Hedgeland DNF
Emma Jackson DNF