Australian Paralympian Lauren Parker.
Australian Paralympian Lauren Parker has her eye on three gold medals at next year's Paris Games. Image by HANDOUT/KORUPT VISION
  • triathlon

Parker aiming for dual-sport Paralympic glory

Roger Vaughan December 1, 2023

The way Lauren Parker explains it, the formidable task of winning gold medals in two sports at the same Paralympics makes perfect sense.

Parker was this week honoured for her dual-sport excellence, winning the women’s Para athlete of the year category at the Australian Institute of Sport awards in Melbourne on Wednesday night.

Along with extending her winning streak in paratriathlon with a fourth world title in 2023, the 34-year-old also collected her maiden world championship in paracycling.

Parker only added cycling to her schedule this year and her lofty goal is to win three gold medals at the Paris Games – the H1 paratriathlon, plus cycling’s H3 time trial and road race.

As she notes, cycling is the 34-year-old Novocastrian’s best leg in paratriathlon, prompting her to add the standalone sport to her program.

“The transition was, I wouldn’t say easy, but because I’m doing cycling in the triathlon, it was easier,” Parker told AAP.

“It’s definitely my strongest leg in a triathlon, so I’m pretty excited.

“In an ideal world, I will have the paratriathlon and the cycling time trial and road race at the Paralympics – three events hopefully and three gold medals hopefully.”

Lauren Parker (left) with her silver at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
 Australia’s Lauren Parker (left) with her silver paratriathlon medal at 2021’s Paralympics in Tokyo. Image by AP PHOTO 

But it will be a tough campaign, with Parker likely to duel with her great American rival Kendall Gretsch for top spot on the Paris paratriathlon podium.

After narrowly losing to Gretsch at the Tokyo Games, Parker has amassed a 14-race winning streak.

The competition schedule at next year’s Paralympics will test Parker, with only a day’s break between the triathlon and her first cycling event.

Lauren Parker (left) and Kendall Gretsch at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
 Paratriathletes Lauren Parker (l) and Kendall Gretsch are likely to duel again at the Paris Games. Image by AP PHOTO 

Combining the two sports will also mean a busy pre-Games schedule – in May she will race at a paracycling World Cup in Belgium, and the next weekend compete at a paratriathlon in Japan.

What makes it possible is strong co-operation between the two national governing bodies, AusTriathlon and AusCycling.

“They want me to succeed in both sports, which really helps me focus on both sports,” Parker said.

“If there was a divide between the two, that would make it difficult. I’m lucky I have great support from both.

“After Tokyo, I really set out to make the right connections, to make it possible, and AusCycling and AusTriathlon were super-excited.

“They work hand-in-hand. (Cycling) is where I make the most time up in a triathlon – I need to get my lead on the bike.”

Parker is far from the first athlete to compete in more than one sport at the same Paralympics, but it remains a daunting task. 

And that’s exactly how she likes it.

“I just really love a challenge. Paris is a challenge, but it’s so exciting,” she said.

“I want to create history.”