'Don’t make sacrifices, make better choices': Paralympian Lakeisha Patterson on becoming an elite athlete

‘Don’t make sacrifices, make better choices’: Paralympian Lakeisha Patterson on becoming an elite athlete

Meet 19-year-old Lakeisha Patterson, a professional athlete who is studying architecture and achieving some epic times and feats in the pool.

Patterson has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and symptoms of early onset Parkinson’s disease, but none of it is stopping her from becoming one of Australia’s best Paralympians.

She started swimming at Bribie Island at the age of 4, initially to help relieve muscle soreness brought on by paralysis in her hand and foot.

She won six medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, including two gold. At the recent Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Patterson stepped up to the S9 classification 100m freestyle, taking almost a second off her best time to beat fellow Australian Ellie Cole to claim the title.

Currently training for the 2018 Pan Pacific Championship Trials in Adelaide in July, Patterson is the latest to answer our Q&A series The Link, connecting you to the work and ideas of different women.

What are you working on right now that’s got you really excited?

We are currently training for Pan Pacific Championships. Trials are in Adelaide in a week and the Pan Pacific Championships are in Cairns in August. I’m really excited for the Pan Pacs as it is an International event and it is always great to see where you sit amongst the rest of the World. 

What one issue is making you really angry right now?

That we as women even need to protest to our Government to have GST removed from Sanitary products. And the fact that they are being labelled a ‘luxury’ item!. Like, Hello. Hardly! 

Best piece of career advice you ever received?

Stand up for equal rights. Live with a NO excuse attitude. Don’t make sacrifices, make better choices.

What would you go back and tell yourself ten years ago? 

I would have told myself to follow my dream of becoming an elite athlete earlier. I didn’t believe in myself enough to start.

Biggest hurdle you’ve faced (or are still facing) in your career?

Proving the doubters wrong. I listened for too long to the word ‘can’t’ until I turned it into the word CAN. I turned it into a challenge accepted and now I set incredibly high goals that most would say are unrealistic – but I say I can achieve them. 

How have mentors or sponsors (or both) aided your career?

My coach has been a mentor in and out of the pool. He invested in me when no one else would. He listens and always managers to turn things around for me. He also allows me to figure out solutions for myself so I have the chance to learn a few lessons along the way. 

What’s your favourite piece of tech?

That’s a tough one! I use many pieces of tech in my day to day life as I am physically unable to write. I guess my iPhone X would be my favourite as it stores and transfers all my data from my Apple Watch and to my laptop. My life is consumed by technology outside of swimming. 

What apps or tools do you use to help manage your day?

The apps and tools that I use to manage my day are pretty easy. With my calendar I am able to send alerts to my watch for appointments and addresses for functions and events. We as a family also use OurPact. All of our diaries sync into one calendar. We all pop in what ever we need for shopping, when mum is at the shops she is able to just open the app when she is shopping and know where everyone is! It helps with the very busy household we live in!

What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?

I have been reading a university text about ancient architecture. The book is about extraordinary architecture from an earlier time created by incredible craftsmen and women. I’m currently studying a Bachelor of Architecture. 

Who would you like to next read about on Women’s Agenda? 

There are so many incredible women out there, some who have inspired me are:

  • Mrs Gina Rinehart – a business woman extraordinaire who is not afraid to go after what she is passionate about.
  • Jessica Long – A Paralympian from the US who holds many world record and medals. She overcame so much adversity and turned swimming into a career.
  • Jessica Watson – Sailing around the world by herself in a yacht to prove that women can do anything with a dream.
  • Turia Pitt – A humanitarian and athlete who overcame burns to 65% of her body, exhibiting indomitable strength.

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