Determination masters new style

Enthusiastic Year 6 writer from St Columba’s Primary School, Adamstown, Hannah Mather, has used the inspirational story of para-athlete Lauren Parker as the basis for her entry into the Australian Catholics magazine Young Journalist Award 2020.

Hannah’s teacher, Kate Willis, presented her with the opportunity to enter the awards and despite being a passionate writer, Hannah initially was apprehensive. She considers creative writing is her strength, not journalism. Despite the nerves associated with tackling an unfamiliar writing style, Hannah took up the challenge and started brainstorming to find the perfect topic.

The Young Journalist Award theme for this year’s competition was “Stories to Celebrate”. Students could explore inspiring stories in any field about which they are passionate. Hannah is an enthusiastic triathlete and started researching sporting stories. And that’s when she came across the story of Lauren Parker.

After doing some research and learning more, Hannah put together her journalistic story about the life of Lauren – a champion triathlete who experienced a terrible accident that left her paralysed. All Hannah needed to complete her article was some direct quotes from Lauren herself.

With the help of her Ms Willis, Hannah contacted Lauren and was able to ask her some questions. After chatting via email, Lauren then contacted St Columba’s saying she was eager to meet Hannah face to face to share her story and thank Hannah for her interest.

Despite physical distancing protocols, Hannah and Lauren met just outside the school grounds and were able to share their love of sport. Hannah says Lauren is an inspiration.  

“We are very appreciative of the time Lauren and her coach Brad Fernley gave to Hannah and her parents to talk about her experiences, sport and share some valuable lessons she has learnt along the way,” says Ms Willis. “We are also very proud of the way Hannah took on the challenge of a writing style with which she is not familiar or comfortable, and the excellent way she represented our school when speaking with Lauren.”

This is Hannah’s entry.


On the 18th of January 2018, Lauren Parker was sent flying off her bike. She flew straight into a guard rail. She was raced straight to hospital for treatment. Unfortunately, she lost feeling in both legs. Her doctor told her that there was only a 1% chance she would ever be able to walk again. Lauren got extremely annoyed at this and was going to prove everyone wrong. ‘There is no such thing as can’t’ Lauren believes ‘Anything and everything is possible’, and she is living proof.

Lauren is an Australian Para-athlete from NSW. Before the incident that turned her life upside down Lauren was a promising athlete. Having competed all over the world in championships and for world titles in triathlons and ironmans. It was the peak of her career.

Lauren had been training with her coach, Brad Fernley when the incident had happened. While she had been riding at 40km an hour, both of her tyres burst. She was taken to John Hunter Hospital.

After the incident Lauren felt hopeless. Now she had to move around in a wheelchair. She could no longer compete in triathlons and do what she loved. Most people would have given up but not Lauren! After heaps of intense training Lauren could swim and do triathlons again. After just a year of training Lauren was ready to compete again, just in time for the Commonwealth Games. Lauren even won a bronze medal there. She is nearly always on the podium in races since her comeback.

Lauren’s story is so inspiring. It is like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Her devastating tragedy became an incredible comeback. Most people would have given up, but Lauren didn’t. She turned her anger and devastation into motivation and determination. She got back up and kept trying, and it paid off.

Lauren still wishes for her old life, but she is still living life to the full. Her sights are set on the 2020 Paralympics. Lauren hopes to win a gold medal there. She reminds herself every day, ‘the pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow’.


The competition winner will be announced in the spring edition of Australian Catholic.

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