Ewa Wisnierska, 35, who lost consciousness as she soared skywards, was covered in ice and battled hailstones the size of oranges. She was pulled 9,940m (32,612 feet) above sea level in the storm near Tamworth, in New South Wales, paragliding officials said.
Championship organiser Godfrey Wenness said it was remarkable that Ms Wisnierska had survived. “There’s no oxygen,” Mr Wenness said. “She could have suffered brain damage but she came to again at a height of 6,900m with ice all over her body and slowly descended herself…It’s like winning Lotto 10 times in a row – the odds of her surviving were that long.”
Ms Wisnierska says she felt like an astronaut returning from the Moon as she landed. “I could see the Earth coming – wow, like Apollo 13 – I can see the Earth,” she said.
She was sure her chance of surviving was “almost zero. I was shaking all the time. The last thing I remember it was dark, I could hear lightning all around me.”
Ms Wisnierska finally made contact with her ground team at 4,000m (13,123 feet)… and finally managed to land – 60km (40 miles) from where she took off.