LAUNCESTON triathlete Natalea Smith had to get over some significant mental and physical hurdles before boarding her London- bound plane this morning for the upcoming ITU World Triathlon Championships.
In February, the 18-year- old from Blackstone Heights was involved in a single-vehicle car accident, which left her with nerve damage in her left hand and ruled her out of competition during the selection period for the championships.
But it was the mental scars that were her biggest challenge.
"I had to take a couple of weeks off, and then just trying to come back, even though the accident was in a car, I really struggled being on the bike and being around cars," Smith said.
"It is all still there, but it is going. When it is really busy on the road, I do struggle and I have to just pull over and calm myself down, but I think it is something that will go with time as confidence builds.
"But then there was the swimming hurting my hand, so there was a good two to three months before I could train without pain."
Smith admitted she thought her dream was "all over" after the accident.
But thanks to her performance in a selection race at Seven Mile Beach before the accident, she received the call-up to compete in the women's 16-19 triathlon in England.
Although it is not in her most comfortable format, she said she was aiming for a top-10 finish.
"I wanted to do the drafting race, which means you can sit on other people's wheels," Smith said.
"But the place I have been offered is in an age group category, which is non- drafting and you are not allowed within 3 metres of the person in front.
"It will be very different for me, as the drafting suits me better - I'm not a strong cyclist, with the run being my best leg, so I will just have to hang in on the bike.
"I'm not sure whether it will suit me or not having to ride out on my own, as I'm a lot smaller than a lot of the girls I race against, so riding alone might be a challenge."
The accident was the latest obstacle in Smith's quest for Australian representation, after illness and a knee injury had hindered her previous attempts.
The ITU World Triathlon Championships will be held at London's Hyde Park from September 11 to 15, with Smith racing next Friday.