1. Hayley Raso, football
In 2018, Matilda #16 Hayley Russo broke three vertebrae in her back during an on-field collision playing in the US women’s league and faced the prospect of potentially never walking again. But thanks to incredible determination, less than a year later after intense rehabilitation, she was back playing at elite level, representing her country at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, after what she calls the most difficult challenge of her career, with her mum as her biggest supporter.
2. Lauren Parker, paratriathlon
Having been a successful triathlete, coming second in the gruelling 2015 Ironman World Championships, her career crumbled in one five-second moment in 2017, when two weeks out from a race she was an accident that left her instantly paralysed from the waist down. Less than a year later, she was back doing the sport she loves, taking the bronze at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. She was recently recognised at the NSW Sport Awards and, in September 2019, Lauren secured her own piece of para-triathlon history, winning the PTWC World Championship in Lausanne, Switzerland.
3. Rebecca McConnell, cross-country mountain bike
This Australian Cross Country Mountain Bike Champion and two-time Olympian and Commonwealth Games Bronze Medallist almost gave up her sport after a turbulent three years since her contract with her pro-team ended unexpectedly in 2016. But with the support of her team, husband Dan and family, Bec committed to another year of professional racing, which is proving to be an amazing comeback. She has had her best ever World Cup result (2nd), several other top 10 World Cup results and is currently ranked 5th overall in the world rankings. She is now gunning for a spot in the 2020 Olympics and is inspiring mountain biking fans all over the world.
4. Sally Fitzgibbons, surfing
In June 2019, Sally Fitzgibbons rode her way to victory, taking out the World Surf League Pro in Rio and snaring the world #1 position on the WSL Women’s Championship Tour in the process. After fracturing her shoulder in 2018, Fitzgibbons admitted she basically had to learn to paddle again and, as a result of these challenges, came back to her sport reinvigorated after a tough few years. She now has her eyes on the prize, with surfing set to take centre-stage at the Tokyo 2020 Games, with the addition of surfing to the Olympic roster.
5. Sarah Klau, netball
Earlier this year, NSW Swifts defender Sarah Klau was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Sarah had dreams of one-day representing Australia and keeping her place in the ultra-competitive world of Super Netball wouldn't be easy either, especially with a chronic disease to manage. Despite this, the 2019 season has seen her excel and dominant performances in Super Netball saw Sarah gain selection in the Diamonds' World Cup Squad which contested the World Cup in England. Instead of giving up she played a World Cup Final. Not only that, she became an inspiration to young kids and everyday people also dealing with diabetes: if a prime athlete like Sarah could manage her condition and succeed, then they could too.