To an athlete, there can be few sounds sweeter than hearing that you’re off to the Paralympic Games.

But for Alexa Leary, the sound of music that helped her through recovery from a traumatic brain injury will take some beating.

The 22-year-old swimmer from the Gold Coast won the 50m freestyle at the Australian Swimming Trials on Tuesday night, meeting the qualifying time for the Paralympic Games in the S9 classification.

The swim does not put her automatically on the Paralympic team — a selection committee will make that decision at the end of the week.

However, it did her chances no harm at all.

Reaching the Paralympics in Paris is an astonishing achievement for a woman who, in the words of her mother Belinda, “wasn’t meant to live”.

“I’m so proud of myself, I’ll really tell you that. I’m so proud of myself,” Leary said.

And no wonder.

Leary lives with a traumatic brain injury she received after crashing her bike during a training ride on the Sunshine Coast.

Alexa Leary dives into the pool

Alexa Leary is the world record holder for the S9 100m freestyle.(Getty Images: Chris Hyde)

A promising triathlete who one day dreamed of making the Olympic team, Leary spent six months in hospital, with doctors doubtful whether she would pull through.

As Leary’s parents, Belinda and Russ, cried tears of happiness in the stands, Leary was coming to terms with her imminent trip to Paris — telling Channel 9 she was ready to enjoy some Parisian crêpes. 

“They’re [my parents] the reason why I’m here,” Leary said.

“They never left my side that six months in that hospital, never left me — like literally, stop working, stop doing everything and sat by my side non-stop all the way.”

“She wasn’t meant to live, let alone walk or talk,” Belinda Leary told Channel 9 on Tuesday night, choking back tears in the stands.

“She always wanted to go to the Olympics.

“To see her, such a big personality, we’ve got such a different daughter back.

“I love her personality. She’s funny, she’s crazy, but most importantly she’s fulfilling her dreams — what she wanted to do prior [to the accident].”

Alexa Leary is interviewed

Alexa Leary (left) broke hearts with her interview after her 50m freestyle.(AAP Image: Darren England)

Leary’s recovery from the accident, which saw surgeons remove part of her skull to save her life after she landed on her head, breaking several bones and puncturing her lung, is remarkable.

But as her mother alluded to, as well as the injuries she suffered in the accident, there was another consequence of her time in hospital, a shift in personality and a new awareness of the power of music.

“I upset my brain very badly,” Leary said after her finals swim.

“I got a traumatic brain injury, right? But in the back bit of your brain is music in it like and hyperness of music.”

That was just the beginning.

“I went so far with music out of the hospital.” Leary said with a wide-eyed enthusiasm for a new-found talent that’s impossible not to be swept up in.

“I got a pair of DJ decks and I made the best songs off my DJ decks. 

“Not gonna lie, everyone wants me to make a SoundCloud. I think I will!

“Yeah, I love music. I don’t stop moving I just love a dance.”

Now, the S9 100m world record holder will likely be dancing all the way to Paris — with the 100m free to come on Thursday.

She might even treat us to her music as well.

Sports content to make you think… or allow you not to. A newsletter delivered each Saturday.