Paralympic golden girl Lakeisha Patterson has added Commonwealth Games gold to her already prodigious trophy case.
Competing up a division, Lakeisha, also known as ‘lucky’ sharply contested the S9 100m freestyle final, touching the wall in 1:03.02, barely .05 seconds in front of England's Alice Tai.
A personal best time for Patterson, she also edged out teammates Ellie Cole (1:03.36), who claimed bronze, and Emily Beecroft who was fourth in 1:03.76.
"I'm on cloud nine. I can't even put into words how I'm feeling," Patterson said after the race.
"I knew it was going to be hard. It was a tough field and swimming up a division is a mammoth effort.
"Those girls come out hard in the first 50m so I knew if I could stay with them I'd have a chance to bring it home."
The 18-year-old graduated from her year 12 studies at St Columban's College late last year, a graduation that was overdue who had to repeat the year due to missing so much school.
But she had a good excuse for her schooling absence with the para swimmer taking the world by storm, representing Australia at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Classified as an S8 swimmer, the Caboolture resident won six medals; the 400m freestyle (gold), 4x100m freestyle (gold), 50m freestyle (silver), 100m freestyle (silver), 4x100m medley (silver), and the 200m individual medley (bronze).
In an amazing performance, the 17-year-old claimed the world record in the 400m freestyle S8, touching the wall in 4:40.33, seven seconds ahead of former world record holder American Jessica Long.
While her sporting achievements hindered her school commitments, Patterson wouldn’t change a thing, deciding just five years ago she wanted to compete in a Paralympics.
“What initially started my fire to want to swim and make that next level was after watching the London 2012 Paralympic Games,” Patterson told GC2018.com.
Up to that stage I never knew that anything existed within para sport. I had no idea that people with disabilities, like me, were able to compete against other people with disabilities.
“So after watching the Games, it really inspired me to get out there. I saw all these amazing athletes compete who have already overcome so many obstacles in their life and they are absolutely smashing it.”
And get out there she did.
Growing up, Patterson faced a lot of challenges brought on by her cerebral palsy, epilepsy and symptoms of early onset Parkinson's disease and initially started swimming, three times a week, for therapy.
But once she discovered the sport of para swimming, Patterson became classified and started training and competing and within a year made her first national team at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
After winning a bronze medal there, the Sunshine Coast based swimmer followed it up with a gold (4x100m freestyle), two silvers (50m frestyle and 4 x 100m medley) and two bronze (100m freestyle and 400m freestyle) medals in the IPC world championships a year later.
Patterson believes she has more in the tank, with the world record holder setting her sights on another medal in the women's S8 50M Freestyle event on Tuesday 10 April.
And the Queenslander couldn’t be more excited for another opportunity to once again be victorious for her biggest supporter, her mum.
“My mum had to raise myself and two other sisters on her own whilst driving us to sport, swimming lessons and massage and hospital visits for me,” she said.
“She has given up so much to allow her daughters to be able to succeed and without her I couldn’t have made it to where I am today.
“So I’m really excited to be able to compete in front of her and show her that all the hard work was worth it.”
Patterson is no stranger to hard work, having had to squeeze 10 swimming sessions, three gym sessions, massage and physio visits and senior school study into each week.
This year, the Paralympian will be attending university, studying a degree that her sporting life actually inspired.
“I’m hoping to study a bachelor of architecture, at the University of Queensland, as I’ve always been really excited in design and that creative aspect,” she said.
“Being an athlete I’ve also been exposed to all these different buildings all over the world; stadiums, pools and hotels, and I would love to be able to, in the future, recreate and design an athlete’s village or pool stadiums.”
Having already showed the benefits of determination and hard work, Patterson is bound to continue her fine form, in or out of the pool – also proving her nickname ‘lucky’ has nothing to do with it.
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photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images