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Golden girl Lucky smashing goals!

14 June 2018

Lucky Patterson
Paralympian Lucky Patterson discusses everything she has achieved so far and what her goals are for the future.

Lakeisha 'Lucky' Patterson started swimming as a form of therapy for muscle soreness and has since gone on to make a name for herself in the world of Para Swimming. Dealing with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and symptoms of early onset Parkinson's disease has definitely not held this powerhouse back.

Since her international debut at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014, she has won herself a huge 14 medals over four different international events. The 2016 Rio Paralympics was a particularly notable event for Lucky after winning six medals, including two gold medals, and breaking the World Record in the 400m Freestyle S8 event. More recently she competed at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games where she won gold in both 50m Freestyle S8 and 100m Freestyle S9.

Outside of the pool Lucky has also been recognised for her achievements with various awards, including winning Queensland Athlete with a Disability Award in 2016 and just last year being awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia.

Lucky is an incredible inspiration for young athletes, having worked exceptionally hard to achieve so much in such a short period of time, and we are very proud to have her as one of our F-Teamers.

We caught up with her recently to discuss everything she has achieved so far and to find out what her goals are for the future.

Lucky Patterson
Golden girl Lucky Patterson is smashing goals in and out of the water!

How did competing at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games compare to competing at other international events?

International competitions are always very exciting with different athletes from all over the world together in the same place. Rio in particular was quite special, being my first Paralympics. But the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games would have to be one of my favourite competitions. I liked that both able-bodied and Para athletes were able to compete in select events and I even swam up a class in the 100m Freestyle event. As an Australian athlete, Australia's support at the Gold Coast Games was incredible and the atmosphere was electric, it?s a very rare opportunity to compete at such a big event in your home country which I certainly didn't take for granted!

Given everything you have achieved since your last Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, did you feel less nervous this time?

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games was my first major international meet, and also my first time overseas, so I was incredibly nervous and inexperienced. Fast forward a few years and I still get nervous before I race, but it's more of an excited feeling now. Also nerves can be good! They mean you are passionate about what you're doing and you can channel them into positive energy. But I am much more confident now in my ability to get up and race fast consistently.

What was it like carrying the baton for the Commonwealth Games?

Being a baton bearer and delivering the Queen's message for the Commonwealth Games was a once in a lifetime experience! It was amazing and so much more exciting than I could have imagined. It was also humbling to play a small part in such a historical event and it certainly ignited my fire to compete in the Games a week later.

If you had to pick just one, what would you say the highlight of your career has been?

That is so hard, I have so many! Now it would be the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games where I swam a PB, won Gold in 50m Freestyle, swam up a class in the 100m Freestyle where I won gold and broke the world record for someone of my class in that event, all in front of my family and on home soil. This was undeniably one of my most memorable experiences and I hope to remember it for years to come!

Last year you were awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OMA), what did that mean for you?

It was such an honour to be awarded an OAM and humbling to be recognised for my services and contribution to sport. While I don't do the sport for the awards and accolades, it means a lot to know that my hard work doesn't go unnoticed. Receiving the OAM was such a proud moment in my life and makes me feel so fortunate and proud to be Australian.

What tricks do you have for handling your nerves before you race?

I make sure that I take it back to basics and focus on my breathing. I also listen to some music on the way to the pool and during my stretches before warm up. Once I get to marshalling I will have a bit of a chat to others then I think about my breathing, what I want to focus on during the race, and some cue words like long and strong, fast turn etc. I also give myself a little motivational talk in my head and reassure myself that I've worked hard and deserve to be here, then I get out there and give it all I've got and have fun!

Do you find it hard balancing your swimming commitments with all your other commitments?

It can be quite challenging being a full-time elite athlete while also being a part-time student, working, keeping other commitments such as events and speaking, and trying to spend time with friends and family. I don't see myself as making sacrifices, but instead choices. I made the choice to become an elite athlete and push myself to continually improve, reminding myself of that makes it easier when times get tough. The key to managing everything is having great organisation and time-management skills, something I had to learn very early on! Also don't be afraid to ask for help, there are always lots of people around you who are willing to support you, tackling everything on your own can get so overwhelming. Down time is also essential, your mental health is as important as your physical health!

What big events are you aiming for now that the Commonwealth Games are over? Tokyo 2020?

What I love about swimming is that there is always something else to look forward to and work towards. My focus right now is on preparing for trials for the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships in Cairns. After that my goal is to compete in the World Championships in Malaysia next year, and then competing at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

What are you hoping to achieve at those competitions?

I generally have a different goal for each competition, but obviously I want to get good results and do my best. I aim to compete in all major competitions leading up to Tokyo and hopefully I will get some PBs and place on the podium, especially in Freestyle events.

What is it like preparing for a Paralympic Games?

I consider myself a hard worker and my training load is normally pretty intense. In swimming there is never really an off season so training for the Paralympics was pretty similar to preparing for any major international competition for me. I swim 10 sessions each week for 2-3hrs with a load of anywhere between 4-10km+, depending on the phase of training I am in. On top of that I do 3 gym sessions a week to work on my strength. I am currently in a high intensity endurance phase, so my workouts are longer and pretty difficult. It is definitely very challenging preparing for the Paralympics, and quite taxing on the body, but I have to be willing to work incredibly hard to achieve my goals.

Given you have already competed at the Paralympics, are you doing anything differently this time to prepare yourself better?

I am more experienced this time round so I won't be as nervous and I know the areas where I can improve. This time I want to make sure I get more sleep, stretch, focus on my nutrition, get massages and physio when necessary, and just really work hard in the pool.

What piece of advice would you give to young swimmers who want to compete at an international level like you do?

No dream is too big or too small, if you can dream it you can do it! You just have to be willing to work hard for it. Set your goals and talk to your coach on how you can achieve them together, after all it is a massive team effort to step up to the world stage. Make sure you focus on the little things such as ensuring you get optimal recovery and managing your time well, including making time for family and friends. Also have confidence and believe in yourself and your ability, the body achieves what the mind believes!

Lucky Patterson
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