Tapp powers to the top

Tapp powers to the top


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Emily Tapp crossing the finish line to claim her first para-triathlon title. Picture: KEITH HEDGELAND PHOTOGRAPHY.

Emily Tapp crossing the finish line to claim her first para-triathlon title. Picture: KEITH HEDGELAND PHOTOGRAPHY.

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EMILY Tapp has turned an accident into an opportunity, winning her first para-triathlon on Sunday.

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ON January 8, 2011, 19-year-old Territorian Emily Tapp had a campdrafting fall that would change her life forever.

The fall left Emily a paraplegic.

A bright young woman competing in a sport she loved, she was now looking at life in a wheelchair.

But with an incredible amount of drive and ambition, Emily has worked hard to positively make the most out of her situation.

On Sunday, while on debut, she won her first para-triathlon - the PT1 class at the OTU Oceania Paratriathlon Championships at Penrith - four years and three days after her devastating accident.

"It was the most surreal thing," the 23-year-old told Queensland Country Life of her win.

"I haven't been doing the sport long. You often see athletes cry after a race and you wonder how they can be so overcome with emotion.

"I can completely understand now.

"It's most rewarding to know not that you put the training to good use, but know you have achieved what you wanted to.

"And you can take that back to training to train harder, to push a bit harder for next time."

That training - three to four times a day, every day, in Brisbane where she now resides or at her mother's home at Warwick in southern Queensland has evidently paid off.

Emily completed the 750m swim, 20km bike ride and 5km run in a time of 1 hour 27 minutes and 36.2 seconds.

That time would have placed Emily in medal contention at last year's world championships according to Triathlon Australia.

Backed by clear ability, Emily now has her sights set on the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in Chicago in September.

She said her ultimate goal is to compete at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Paralympic Games where the sport will make its debut.

But with Paratriathlon a relatively new event, her class PT1 will not be included in the program until Tokyo 2020.

I don't want to do both half-heartedly, so I want to make sure I'm prepared

Emily said she's now faced with the tough decision of waiting until 2020 to realise her dream of competing at the Paralympics or targeting Rio for just one of her disciplines.

"To be fair they're big commitments [Paratriathlon world championships and single-discipline Paralympic event]," she said.

"I don't want to do both half-heartedly, so I want to make sure I'm prepared.

"I've been given such a fantastic opportunity that most don't get so I feel very fortunate."

Adding to her workload this year, the former Fairholme College boarder, in Toowoomba, will also be completing her second year of a bachelor of international business and finance externally through the University of Southern Queensland.

Like many of her peers, she shares dreams of travelling and said she would like to do a semester abroad at the London School of Economics.

The cheerful young woman jokes that hearing someone say "yoghurt" in an English accent while overseas is also on the goal list.

But let's be honest, everyone faces those types of issues no matter position you're in.

From Emily's optimistic demeanour and her clear confidence in getting on with an 'ordinary' life, it'd be easy to suggest that she is just like anyone else her age.

But that description would not give Emily her due credit.

Her unyielding strength in the face of every challenge put before her is remarkable.

When asked of these challenges, Emily simply dismisses them.

"Yes definitely, everyday tasks like life would be a lot easier [if the accident didn't occur]," she said.

"But let's be honest, everyone faces those types of issues no matter position you're in.

"It's a big setback and if I could change it I would there's no doubt about that.

"I don't want to be that person that sort of sits around and feels sorry for themselves all the time.

"I have an amazing support network that even if I wanted to [be negative] I couldn't."

This network includes her parents, sister Courtney and brother Lynton, who has seen his own success as the Master Chef 2013 runner-up.

As she looks towards the future with excitement, Emily Tapp said she doesn't know what is ahead.

She's simply taking each hour and day as it comes - advice given to her by the paramedic who first attended her after the horse riding accident.

And if that doesn't work? "Just have a red velvet cupcake!" she laughs.

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