Lisa’s gutsy journey from pain to pride
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Lisa’s gutsy journey from pain to pride

IF you are in need of some inspiration, look no further than middle distance triathlete Lisa Zilberpriver's example.

Riding a wave of courage ... Lisa Zilberpriver.
Riding a wave of courage ... Lisa Zilberpriver.

IF you are in need of some inspiration, look no further than middle distance triathlete Lisa Zilberpriver’s example.

The 40-year-old Israeli-born Melburnian almost gave up on competing, or even training again, three years ago following a horror bike accident that broke her jaw in four places and smashed a row of teeth – injuries that still require treatment and pain management today.

“That was really tough for me mentally, because after the accident I had to re-establish my love for the sport all over again,” Zilberpriver said.

“I developed a fear of cycling on the road alongside traffic, so I do all my bike training indoors.

“The support of others – family, friends, workmates and my coach at Tri-Alliance Dan Weekes – kept me going.”

Lisa Zilberpriver at the Melbourne Challenge middle distance triathlon, which qualified her for the 2019 world championships in Slovakia.

Upping her training to 15-20 hours per week, while juggling her full-time role at Our Watch – a charity dedicated to preventing violence against women and children – has seen Zilberpriver reach new heights in her chosen sport.

She smashed her middle distance triathlon PB by a massive 8 minutes at last month’s Challenge Melbourne event, completing the 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and 21km run in just 5 hours and 14 minutes.

That earned her a “completely unexpected” place to represent Australia in the 40-44 women’s age division at the 2019 Challenge World Championships to be held in Samorin, Slovakia on June 2.

“Qualifying for that was a huge surprise – it’s my first world championships and I feel so excited, and nervous, about it at the same time.

“I have a lot of respect for the course, part of which is in the Danube River, but conditions will be hot and there will be a top quality field in my division, so my only goal is to give it everything I’ve got and to aim for a PB.

“The holy grail for me is to work towards a sub 5-hour time.”

Not one for needing any extra motivation, Zilberpriver nevertheless revealed an extra, deeply personal, element about her journey to the world championships, and has launched a GoFundMe fundraising page to help make it possible.

Lisa with her father, Yitzhak, in Israel in 2016.

Most of the Zilberpriver family perished during the Holocaust, and her 82-year-old father Yitzhak – who was born in Israel and still lives there – has always spoken about his desire to take Lisa to visit Auschwitz, but never had the means to do so. 

With Samorin located just a short drive from Auschwitz in nearby Poland, Zilberpriver realised an opportunity presented itself to accompany her father – who has mobility issues – on a once-in-a-lifetime trip that would achieve both of their dreams.

So far, Zilberpriver has reached the halfway mark of her fundraising target of $6000.

“Yitzhak’s parents – Chana and David Zilberpriver – were the only ones in their families to survive the Holocaust, as they were able to move from Warsaw to Palestine in 1933,” she said.

“Misha Burstyn, who was my grandmother’s favourite brother, was killed in Auschwitz – we know that from the Nazi records – and my uncle in Israel has kept about 60 letters in Yiddish from him that were posted to my grandma, but those letters suddenly stopped in 1940.

“There is one postcard that says ‘save us’, in writing barely visible so as to evade the censors.”

She added that Yitzhak’s parents were so severely traumatised, they made a heartbreaking decision to surrender him to a kibbutz, where he was raised from age three to six.

“My dad was very strongly affected by it, so for him it is really important to be in the presence of what happened to Misha, and many others in the family.

“I think it will be a strange feeling to be there [Auschwitz] together, but so important to be able to be present and connect there, in honour of our families.” 

To support Zilberpriver’s fundraising campaign, visit www.gofundme.com/help-zilbo-turn-tragedy-to-triumph.

SHANE DESIATNIK

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