5 Of The Most Inspiring Comebacks In Australian Sport

by | Oct 16, 2019

The past 12 months has seen some seemingly impossible feats of resilience, with many women overcoming physical, mental or emotional setbacks against all odds to achieve to achieve a sporting greatness. Here are five of the most inspiring comebacks from Australian women in sport. 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Tune into Channel 7 on Friday October 18 to watch the 2019 Women’s Health Women in Sport Awards and show your support online with the hash tags #WHWinS #WomenInSport.

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‘After 3 Miscarriages, This is How I Processed the Trauma’

With October marking International Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, we spoke to survivor of multiple miscarriages and women's health lobbyist Samantha Payne, CEO and Co-Founder of Pink Elephants - Australia’s only national support service dedicated solely to miscarriage and early pregnancy loss.

Here's her story.

What is your experience with miscarriage?

I have lost 3 babies to miscarriage, my first was a missed miscarriage - I walked into a scan expecting to show my then-toddler her baby sibling on the screen only to be met with 'I'm sorry there is no heartbeat.' I had to endure a weekend with that baby dead inside of me before I could be fitted in for a D&C.

My next miscarriage happened 6 months later - I started to bleed on holiday with friends, I told no one, I was deeply ashamed. I passed that baby alone in the shower at 3am, forever traumatised as I had to flush the remains down the toilet.

My final loss was just last year another miscarriage I started to spot and I just knew, the Doctor that saw me this time asked if we could see a flicker on the screen she thought there was a heartbeat, astounded we asked for a second opinion, where it was confirmed my baby had died.

How did you process the trauma?

With my first two losses, I didn't cope. I poured everything into Pink Elephants and having another baby. I had another pregnancy but was completely terrified the whole time, I didn't bond with this baby, no names, no gender reveal, wearing a brave face every day pretending I was grateful. When Johnny was 4 months old it all caught up with me: I had postpartum anxiety and post-traumatic stress as a result of my losses and not processing the trauma. With counselling and medication, I began to heal and process my losses. My loss last year was different: I took bereavement leave, I gave myself permission to grieve our baby girl and mourn my future with her. I spoke with others in our community, I went back to counselling, and I took the time I needed to start to heal.

How did you get the courage to launch Pink Elephants?

I don't think it was courage, in the beginning, I think it was my anger at the lack of support and validation that I chose to channel into something positive.

I never want my daughter to go through what I did in the way I did. Women deserve so much more than what we currently get.

Last year took courage to come back and work in this space again after bereavement leave - the physical and emotional pain was real, the triggers of other women's stories are real but they are also cathartic. As is the change we create, I feel like my work is meaningful and makes a difference that's what carries me on, I know we can do so much more with the right support alongside us.

I want to next see more targeted action from our government - in particular the Department of Health - in addressing this issue. It's no longer ok to turn a blind eye to the death of our babies, our trauma, and our poor mental health because of the system failing us.

How can we support a friend that has been through loss like this?

You can be there for her, you can validate her loss, don't reduce it to 'at least' comments. You can't take away her pain but you can provide a safe space for her to share and feel listened to, empathised with, and supported. Like any other bereavement send flowers, we have collaborated on a LVLY nurture flower posy as a way to do this. Remember there is no timeline to grief and it's ok for her to still be upset for many months after, remember her due date, acknowledge it at the time, support her through other friends' baby showers.

How can women experiencing miscarriage access support?

They can head to www.pinkelephants.org.au to access our circle of support, which includes online peer support communities to connect with others through miscarriage, trying to conceive again, and pregnancy after loss. Specialised emotional support content, as well as shared stories and journeys, can be accessed through our website too.