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Meet our para athlete: Monique Murphy

Meet our para athlete, Monique Murphy, a paralympic swimmer. Watch these videos to learn about the support of friends, motivations and inspirations.
My name’s Monique Murphy. I’m studying a Bachelor of Social Work at Griffith University. I’m an S10 Paralympic swimmer. I achieved a silver medal at the Rio Paralympics, and my next aim is to represent Australia at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. So, I’ve been a swimmer ever since I was a kid. I grew up in Canberra, and I had quite a strong fear of the water. I almost drowned twice on two separate occasions. And because I had quite severe asthma, my parents got me involved in swimming. I was always hoping to make the national championships as a kid. I always had dreams of going to an Olympics. So unfortunately, it didn’t come true.
I missed out on nationals by .02 for about three years in a row. And then I moved on from swimming. At the beginning of 2014, I switched to a Bachelor of Social Work. And I was involved in a very serious accident where I fell from a fifth floor balcony and landed on a glass roof. I was in such a severe condition when I arrived in hospital, there were no tests, like blood tests or blood alcohol tests conducted. But it’s assumed by the doctors that my drink was spiked on the night, as I have no memory.
I woke up a week later from a coma to find my right foot had been amputated, along with a twice-broken jaw, a deep cut to my neck, broken collarbone, broken knee, knee reconstruction, torn tricep tendons, broken ribs, just the works. I got back into swimming through hydrotherapy. Initially, I had no interest in being a Paralympian or getting back to swimming, although that’s what a lot of people suggested I do. But the first day I got fitted with my prosthetic was exactly a month after the final amputation. And that was the same day that I was lowered into the pool for hydrotherapy. And I was loaded up with floaties and noodles, and felt completely humiliated.
But I felt so free and just in so much control in the water. I had so much more movement and mobility than I did on land. And I loved that feeling. Five months after the accident, I joined Melbourne VicCentre. And I’d started training. Quickly found myself training up to seven times a week. Exactly a year after the accident to the day, I was competing at the National Open Championships in Sydney. Had all my family there. And at the end of that week, I turned 21, and was named on the Australian Dolphins swim team for the World Championships that were held in Glasgow. And I continued training for the Rio Paralympics.
And on my 22nd birthday, I qualified for the Games within a second of the world record. So I then trained into the Rio Games with just the hopes of doing my best. It was tough competition. I was up against girls who’d been racing a lot longer than I had. And it was exactly 900 days since the accident that I hit the wall and won the silver medal. Less than half a second behind me was fourth place. It was a very close race. And I had my family in the stands, my dad, my brother, my stepmom, and my mum. And it was just the most fantastic moment to share with them.
And to be able to do that for my country, everyone who had helped me through such a hard time, just give back to them. I didn’t expect to ever feel so much pride and excitement being on the Paralympic team. And I think being a Paralympian exceeded any dreams or ideas I could have had to be an Olympian as a kid. I then moved up to Queensland. I trained on the Gold Coast for a year. And I’m now training at Lawnton Swim Club under Harley Connolly. Just chasing that feeling again. I want to do my best. I want to be the best that I can be. And hopefully, come Tokyo 2020, might do one better.

Monique Murphy is a 23 year-old Australian swimming champion and a Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) scholarship holder.

She was first selected to compete for Australia at the 2015 IPC8 World Swimming Championships in Glasgow and made her Paralympic debut in 2016 at the Rio Games. Monique won silver in the 400m freestyle at Rio and says standing on the podium is her greatest sporting achievement.

Watch the video above of our interview with Monique to hear her story and find out what it took for her to become a Paralympian.

The importance of friends and family

Listen to Monique talk about how important her family and teammates are to her when she is competing.

Importance of Family and Friends

When it comes to elite sport, having the support of family, friends, and teammates could be the secret to an athlete’s success. In the early years of an elite athlete’s journey, family are important as they can provide shelter (eg, a house to live in), transport (eg, a car to get to training), and nourishment (eg, healthy food to eat).

However, could there be more to it? Do social support systems help athletes perform better during competition? According to research1 (in amateur golfers), encouragement and support offered by friends and family can build confidence in an athlete that can help in high-pressure situations, such as a major sport event.

Motivations and Inspiration

Let’s now look at what motivates and inspires elite athletes and para athletes to pursue a career as an elite athlete and push themselves to their limits.

In this video we will hear from four athletes/para athletes from Griffith University:

  • Domonic Bedggood is a former gymnast who pursued a career as an olympic diver after an accident prompted him to change events.
  • Matthew McShane is a paralympic basketballer.
  • Monique Murphy, who we have just heard from, is a paralympic swimmer.
  • Rowan Crothers is a paralympic swimmer.

Find out what has motivated and inspired them to work towards success at major sport events.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Your task

Now that you’ve been introduced to some of our athletes, share in the comments below any stories you know of other athletes’ motivations and inspirations.


1. Rees T, Freeman P. Social support moderates the relationship between stressors and task performance through self-efficacy. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 2009; 28: 245-264.


The Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) has kindly provided some of the footage used in the Monique Murphy video above.

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