SA’s Anu Francis secures 2nd world ranking en route to 2024 Paralympics

Paralympic hopeful Anu Francis has secured the 2nd world ranking in paratriathlon with a dream of competing in the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.

Image: Chris Rawling and Anu Francis

Paralympic hopeful Anu Francis, a dedicated student of exercise physiology at Flinders University, has achieved a remarkable feat by securing the 2nd world ranking in paratriathlon.

With the support of Flinders’ innovative Elite Athlete Program, Francis is on course to realise her dream of competing in the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.

Playing a pivotal role in Francis’s journey is exercise physiologist Chris Rawling, who has been coaching her for the past three years.

Rawling, a former professional triathlete and lecturer, has been instrumental in harnessing Francis’s potential, guiding her towards excellence in paratriathlon through the university’s program tailored for elite athletes.

Despite grappling with a challenging degenerative neurological condition that demands meticulous medical management, Francis has shown remarkable resilience. Her condition, characterised by hypertonia, involuntary muscle movements, and gait abnormalities, makes her achievements in elite sports all the more remarkable.

Reflecting on her journey, Francis expresses gratitude towards Rawling, whose passion for exercise physiology and triathlon inspired her to transition from rowing to triathlon.

“I met Chris through the program in 2019 when I was a national-level rower studying education. Little did we know that two years later, having narrowly missed selection for the Tokyo Paralympics, Chris’ passion for exercise physiology and triathlon would inspire me to change not only my sport but my career path too,” says Ms Francis.

“Chris and I are in a unique position where he is not only my coach but also my exercise physiologist, lecturer, and now my mentor as I complete my Level 2 triathlon coaching course.

“However, we thankfully make a great team, fuelled by a deep respect for one another and a shared endless passion for learning, health and performance. Whilst it’s challenging balancing elite sport with study and gaining industry experience through triathlon coaching and disability support work, it’s also extremely rewarding and makes me a more well-rounded athlete, student and person.”

Their collaborative efforts bore fruit in August 2023 when Francis clinched the top spot in a test event held in Paris, where she competed against 60 athletes on the exact course slated for the Paralympic Games. Rawling’s presence provided valuable insights into the course and conditions, enhancing their preparation for the upcoming event.

Mr Rawling says the data he collected in Paris and the virtual course simulation are also valuable tools for teaching his Exercise Physiology students at Flinders’ Bedford Park campus.

“It’s a unique opportunity to connect theoretical knowledge with real-world applications and provide students with valuable insights. These resources will facilitate a deeper understanding of the practical application of exercise science and physiology in the realm of elite sports,” says Mr Rawling.

In their continued preparation for the Paralympics, Mr Rawling and Ms Francis will utilise Flinders’ facilities for metabolic testing and various training activities. Mr Rawling draws inspiration from the athlete’s unwavering commitment and resilience, considering her a remarkable example for others.

“The highlight was witnessing her win, a significant achievement given the hurdles she’s faced due to a rare neurological condition. Managing her condition alongside elite sports training has been a challenge, but she’s shown tremendous dedication. Anu is an incredible advocate for disability and a strong athlete. Her journey is not just about sport; it’s about making a meaningful impact,” says Mr Rawling.

He says his commitment to Anu’s success mirrors his commitment to the growth and development of his students, showcasing his unwavering dedication to both their advancement and his own professional development.

For more information about Flinders University Elite Athlete Program, head here.

More News

To Top