A Queensland teenager who was given little chance of survival after being born nearly four months premature, recently competed in the Special Olympic World Games bringing home gold, silver and bronze medals in riding events.

Karen Messmer, 16, of Rockhampton, won gold in the trail event, silver in dressage and bronze in equestrian. She was one of four equestrian riders chosen for the team, and the only team member representing central Queensland in the competition.

Karen has autism, attention deficit disorder and hypotonia, which means she has decreased muscle tone and increased flexibility.

Her mother, Suzanne Messmer, said watching her daughter compete was a proud moment.  

“Karen set her goal five years ago and made it, showing when you want something you can achieve it” she said.

Karen said she competed at the Special Olympics not expecting to win any medals.

“To come home last weekend with one from every event was more than I could ask for,” she said. “The experience was wonderful and I am going to continue to ride and see what happens next.”

After an occupational therapist suggested the idea, Karen started horse riding five years ago, developing a passion for the sport and a bond with animals.

Mater Hospital neonatologist Dr Elizabeth Hurrion  who cared for Karen 16 years ago, said that at that time babies born extremely premature did not survive.

“From her tiny start to life, fraught with difficulties, and faced with many challenges through childhood, I am truly impressed that Karen has reached this exciting milestone” she said.