Years of hard work paid off for Paige Leonhardt in June when she won her first major international gold medal at the World Para Swimming Championships.
In the S14 100m butterfly final, the 22-year-old pulled away from Britain’s Jessica Applegate in the closing stages to win by more than half a second, clocking 1 minute 5.27 seconds.
A new recruit the Belgravia squad at Burpengary, she also returned with silver medals in the S14 100m breaststroke and with the Australian Mixed 4x100m S14 Relay team.
It was a remarkable haul for the Redlands resident who has seen her classification change and only joined coach Harley Connolly and his team late last year.
However, this was also the culmination of 10 years training in the pool and more than 15 years since a car accident which left her with severe injuries.
About Paige Leonhardt
Paige Leonhardt won her first national medal a year after taking up squad swimming and her sporting career has been on a steep upward curve ever since.
It has been a triumph of strength and determination.
Leonhardt was five when she suffered severe injuries in a car accident and spent four years recovering.
It left her with hemiplegia cerebral palsy, intercranial hypertension, epilepsy and autism.
She started squad swimming to help the rehabilitation and a year later won seven gold and four silver from 11 events at the 2013 Queensland Multi-Class Championships.
A bronze medal followed at the 2014 Australian Championships 50m breaststroke Multi-class in a personal best 2 minutes 39.11 seconds.
Next stop was Rio for the 2016 Paralympics where Leonhardt made the S10 100m butterfly and 100m breaststroke finals, finishing sixth in both.
She was selected for the 2017 World Para Championships, which were initially postponed following an earthquake in Mexico.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games, on the Gold Coast, saw Leonhardt win the SB9 100m breaststroke silver and just miss the podium in the SM10 100m medley, finishing fourth.
After the COVID pandemic, there was another silver medal, this time at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics S14 100m butterfly in 1 minute 5.48 seconds, less than two seconds behind the winner who broke the world record.
In two other finals – the SB14 100m breaststroke and SM14 200m medley relay – Leonhardt did not medal.
However, less than 12 months later, silver became gold at the world para swimming championships.
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