‘She wasn’t meant to live’: Alexa Leary’s dad chokes back tears after Paralympics miracle

Remember the name Alexa Leary.

The 22-year-old secured her ticket for the Paralympics at the Australian swimming qualification competitions on Tuesday evening and her story is truly a triumph of the human spirit.

Leary, a former triathlete, was completing a cycling training session in 2021 when her front wheel clipped the bike in front of her at 70 km/h.

Her father rode after her and found his daughter unconscious.

She landed on her head, suffering multiple broken bones, a punctured lung and a broken leg. Leary spent six months in hospital and doctors doubted whether she would survive, let alone walk or talk again. Part of her skull was removed in a life-saving operation.

She lives with permanent brain damage and weakness on the right side of her body, but she managed to defeat death and put her energy into swimming.

The S9 world champion in the 100 m freestyle qualified for the 50 m freestyle in Brisbane on Tuesday with a time of 27.89 and the smile could not be wiped off her face.

“I’ve actually come this far,” Leary told Nine.

“I’m so impressed that I’m even in the water. I’m thinking to myself, ‘Yeah, Lex, like you made it that far.'”

When she realized she had qualified for the Paralympics in Paris, she said: “I’m so excited. I think these are the crepes for me!”

Watch Alexa Leary and her parents react to qualifying for the Paralympics in the video above

There were emotional scenes at the poolside and in the stands at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre, where Leary’s parents Belinda and Russ watched proudly.

“I would say they are the reason I am here,” Leary said.

“They stayed by my side. Six months in that hospital, they never let me go.”

“It’s unbelievable,” Russ said through tears.

“To think that we spent six months in the hospital and could never walk or talk again. Now she is flying to the Olympics.

“After her accident, the world supported her. She turned a lot of heads. She did a great job.”

Mother Belinda said: “She was not meant to live, let alone walk or talk. To see her, such a great personality, we got a completely different daughter back.”

“I love her personality. She’s funny, she’s crazy, but most importantly, she’s pursuing her dreams – what she’s always wanted to do. She always wanted to go to the Olympics.”

Paralympic swimming legend Ellie Cole told news.com.au ahead of the trials that Leary was one of several young swimmers who would take the lead of a new-look para-swimming team.

“Alexa Leary broke the S9 world record in the 100-meter freestyle, which was my score, so I’m glad I retired,” she said.

“Alexa is going to swim really well in Paris. She is so genuine, real and honest and funny. I love her more than anything.”

Leary’s main event is the 100 m freestyle, which takes place on Thursday.

In other competition on Tuesday night, Kaylee McKeown missed her own world record in the 100-meter backstroke by just 0.08 seconds in another brilliant swim.

Mollie O’Callaghan is the fourth woman to swim the 100m backstroke in under 58 seconds, but whether she will compete in Paris depends on her other competitions.

Max Giuliani won the men’s 200m freestyle and qualified for his first Olympic Games and his first Dolphins team with a time of 1:45.83.

Giuliani, who like Ariarne Titmus moved from Tasmania to Brisbane to pursue his swimming dream, stormed down the final lap and was the only swimmer to beat the qualifying time.

Ian Thorpe is the only Australian to swim the four laps faster than Giuliani’s personal best of 1:44.79.

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