Monique Murphy’s Journey to the 2016 Paralympics

22-year-old Monique Murphy is about to represent Australia in the Rio 2016 Paralympics. She shares her phenomenal story with us, her love of swimming, overcoming obstacles and the power of goal setting. Good luck for Rio, Monique!

“My First Goal”

In 2014, as the result of an accident, I was hospitalised and placed into an induced coma. I woke to numerous broken bones, scars and torn muscles as well as the amputation of my right foot. After a total of nine operations, this would become a below knee amputation.

I was sitting up in bed recovering in the Royal Melbourne Hospital when Jen the physio came in. After three operations in three days, I’d been stubborn and refused to have anyone move or touch me for over a week. Jen began encouraging me to bend my left knee, which I had just had reconstructed. After refusing to even try over the last few days, I was shocked that movement was actually possible. My body was more capable that I was giving it credit for. She then told me, that once I could bend the knee to 90 degrees, we could start standing. My older brother would be leaving for England the next Friday, and with that I set my first goal. To be able to stand, to give him a hug goodbye.

“Setting Goals Give You Something to Strive For”

I have always been a goal-orientated person. Setting goals gives you something to strive for and gives you a reason to work hard. As a competitive swimmer from the age of six, I have had dreams of competing at the Olympics.

Initially my goals included ‘feed myself’ and ‘sit on the edge of the bed without fainting’. While simple in nature, these took more effort, determination and resilience then I ever knew I had. And with each achieved goal, came the sense of accomplishment and self-belief. It would have been easier to let all my friends and family do these things for me, but the long-term goal was to live an independent life despite the accident. Over the weeks I got stronger, and my goals slowly got bigger. Soon I was walking on a new prosthetic, and five months later, I was back in the water, and training for the 2015 World Championships.

“This Journey is Not Easy”

Two years after that life changing accident, I was standing behind the blocks at the Australian Paralympic Swimming Trials. 400 meters later, along with a new Australian Record, and title, I was nominated to the Australian Paralympic Committee for Rio 2016 selection.

This journey is not easy. I’m still in rehabilitation, and somehow also preparing for my first Paralympics. I train harder than I ever trained as an able-bodied swimmer. There are days where I would rather stay in bed than train in a Melbourne outdoor pool at 5am. On these days I remind myself of the girl in hospital unable to move, and how much she would have given to simply walk. From this I remember my long-term goal. It’s not to win medals or beat the competition, but to simply give my best effort and make the most of what I have. And with that I have surprised myself with what I can accomplish. I am still a very able-bodied woman.

“I’m Fitter Than I Was Pre-Accident”

I have nine two-hour swim training sessions and three two-hour gym sessions per week. I also ride and do pilates. I see physios, dietitians, and a sports psychologist, as being an athlete or simply being healthy is more than just exercise. Since being in hospital I have lost over 10 kilos, and I’m fitter and healthier than I ever was pre-accident. Visiting a dietitian and learning how to appropriately fuel my body allowed me to become the athlete I never could be before. Training is hard, and draining both mentally and physically, but the friendships I have made and support I receive is what keeps me coming back for more.

“Swimming Is What Makes Me Smile”

I have many goals surrounding the upcoming Rio 2016 Paralympics, some that have been in place for years. Surprisingly little are around winning medals, but simply about getting personal best times. It is daunting that the deadline for my long-term goals is approaching, and when they get overwhelming I fall back onto my short-term goals. To work as hard as I can that day and make the best decisions for myself both in an out of the water. Swimming is what makes me smile. For me, it is the one thing that allows me to feel strong and uninhibited by my physical restrictions. I would not be where I am without swimming. It has speed up my rehabilitation, kept me fit and healthy and given me a chance to represent my country.

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