When discus star Sarah Edmiston stepped into the thrower’s circle for the Para World Championships in London last year, she did so having achieved something far more significant than can be measured in metrics.
At 41 years of age and as a mother of four – she made an improbable international debut for Australia after she’d been told as a teen, that she may never walk again following a serious leg injury.
Years before, Edmiston had dreamt of being an Olympic athlete. Having started little athletics at the age of six, by just 15 she had shown considerable promise.
But such is the fickle nature of fate, an innocuous boating trip with friends and a spontaneous decision to try water skiing for the first time would dramatically change her future plans.
As Edmiston recounts, she had been determined to make a fist of her new water activity. A couple of false-starts later and all had appeared on track.
"It was fun for a moment then I had a feeling that something wasn’t right, I was going too fast,” she said.
"I let go of the handle and in that split second I knew something was terribly wrong.”
Edmiston sustained multiple injuries to her right leg. She says it had been touch and go as to whether she would keep it, let alone keep use.
"I woke after an emergency eight hour surgery and doctors told me they had managed to save my leg by grafting two out of three arteries that I had torn.
"My first question was when can I start throwing again?
"Their answer was you will never be able to throw again and you will be lucky if you can walk.”
In revealing the extent of damage, Edmiston confirmed that the doctors’ concerns had been well justified.
"My injuries were extensive. Along with the arteries, I also tore my ACL and PCL, had many loose bone fragments throughout my knee and had severed and damaged nerves.”
The repair had required Edmiston to spend two weeks in hospital, followed by a three month stint in a hip to toe cast.
Whilst her Olympic dream had shattered, Edmiston had now set her steely resolve towards ensuring that she would once again walk.
"I had just as much determination to achieve my new goal and after a year of hard, painful work, I could finally walk.”
Despite being resigned to giving up her representative dreams, a love for athletics led Edmiston to return to the sport after six years.
Her talent remained obvious as evidenced by her medalling at open state championships, but the lasting effect of her injuries meant that her progress in the sport would seemingly remain at that level.
"The accident had left me mostly paralysed in my lower right leg and with instability in my knee, as the ligaments couldn’t be repaired,” she said.
Despite WA boasting a proud record of Paralympic talent, Edmiston was unaware that her injuries could pave the way for her to compete at the highest level.
That was, until a chance conversation at a routine training session.
"My journey into para-athletics started while training one day when I met a lady who suggested that I might be eligible,” Edmiston recalls.
"I thought it would be worth looking into, so I did some research online and as I was reading it, I was amazed to find myself thinking – yes this is me!”
Edmiston received official classification in October of 2016 as an F44 class athlete and within a matter of months, she held the Australian record and was selected for the 2017 World Championships in London.
"The opportunity to compete against other people from around the world who have similar limitations as I do, has opened a whole new world for me,” Edmiston said.
"When I caught a glimpse of myself on the giant screen at the stadium, the nerves kicked in.
"20 thousand people watching and I managed to secure the bronze medal.”
Just 10 months separated Edmiston from a Perth recreational thrower, to a world championship medallist. She said the support of her family, including her husband/coach Paul had made all the difference.
"As a parent, your interests and activities often take a back seat to those of your children’s. I wanted to make sure my kids understood the changes that would happen if I was to pursue this and I was delighted that they were very supportive and excited to go on this journey with me.
"I am now at a stage where I am training six days a week. Luckily I have a fantastic coach who oversees all aspects of my training including throwing, strength, technique and speed. I feel very fortunate to have such a dedicated coach, who also happens to be my husband,” Edmiston said.
With family on board and the realisation that her talents are world class, Edmiston is now re-setting that familiar resolve to even loftier targets ahead.
"I have a new goal to win gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
"I don’t know if I will achieve this but I am certainly going to try my best, because I know how it feels for the dream to be over, so I am determined to make the most of this second chance.”