Woman injured on Vineyard prepares for Paris Paralympics

Noelle Lambert lost her leg. Now she’s a top track and field athlete.


When two women riding a moped collided with a dump truck on Barnes Road in August 2016, the damage was so horrific that even seasoned first responders were shaken.

The driver, 19-year-old Noelle Lambert, a star athlete in high school, was so badly injured that doctors had to amputate her left leg above the knee, and arrange extensive rehabilitation. 

Two years after the accident, she successfully returned to lacrosse in college, and then got into track and field, using a prosthetic leg with a running blade at the end. 

Today Lambert hopes to win a medal in the 100-meter sprint and long jump at the Paralympics in Paris, which will be held just after the Olympics in Paris. The Paralympics is a multisport event for athletes with disabilities. 

Paralympics events are scheduled from August 28 to Sept. 8. Before Lambert can enter the Stade de France, where the track events will be held, she needs to qualify at the Paralympic team trials at the Ansin Sports Complex in Miramar, Fla., in July. 

She plans to compete in both the 100-meter sprint and the long jump in the T63 category, a sports classification for athletes with an amputation above the knee. 

This wouldn’t be Lambert’s first Paralympics. 

She won sixth place in the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021, and set a U.S. record with a time of 15.97 seconds in the 100-meter sprint in the T63 category. She had previously set the U.S. record at the World Para Athletics Championship in Dubai in 2019, with a time of 16.31 seconds. 

“I was super-excited to break the American record in Tokyo, because I still considered myself fairly new to the sport,” Lambert told The Times in a telephone interview from California, where she is training. 

She has steadily improved. During the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships in March, Lambert clocked a personal best of 15.25 seconds. 

“Now I’m going into Paris more confident, and thinking that I have a good chance to medal,” she said.

Her path to Paris hasn’t been easy. Lambert said she felt like she hit a wall last track season, and didn’t qualify for the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in Paris. 

“It was a clear-cut moment for me,” said Lambert, who has become a popular motivational speaker. “You can give up, you can quit, you can retire and try something new. Or you can keep trying to fight, and use this as motivation.” 

This pushed Lambert to visit an Italian prosthetist who worked with runners. In Tokyo, the three medalists in the T63 category all came from Italy. 

Lambert said he realigned her running blade, which resulted in a smoother performance on the track, and made her feel like she wasn’t wearing a prosthetic leg. “I had to learn how to run again,” she said. 

“I needed that setback last season, because it honestly lit a fire in me,” Lambert said. 

Lambert moved to California from her home in New Hampshire in January, so she could train outdoors more and better prepare for competitions.

She began training at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center, and working with track and field Coach Kris Mack and other athletes with disabilities.

“It’s an incredible thing, having someone be so excited to teach me, to coach me,” Lambert said about Mack, who she said believed in her when she doubted herself. “It made me more and more excited to do better.”

Mack especially helped her discover her long jump abilities. 

During the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships, held in Walnut, Calif., in March, Lambert broke the U.S. record for a para-athlete in her category with a 4.75 meter jump. 

That would have been enough for fourth place at the Tokyo Paralympics, behind Swiss bronze medalist Elena Kratter’s 5.01-meter jump. 

Lambert broke her own record again last weekend at the Franson Last Chance track meet at Azusa Pacific University in California, with a jump of 5.06 meters. 

Lambert said it was exciting that she was potentially in medal contention after only being in the sport for a few months. 

“Every single time I want to try something new, I know that with my stubborn mindset, I’m going to accomplish it,” she said. “I don’t start something just to be, like, ‘OK, I did it.’ I want to start something and excel at it, and be the best that I can be at it.”

Lambert’s Paralympic sports journey began after she and a friend, Kelly Moran, lost control of their moped near the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, and collided with a dump truck. Both women sustained serious leg injuries, and Lambert was airlifted to Boston Medical Center via the helicopter service MedFlight.

Before the accident, Lambert played soccer, basketball, and lacrosse in high school, and even received a Division 1 lacrosse scholarship to play at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. After losing her leg, she took time to rehabilitate and make her way back to sports. 

Lambert credited her ability to bounce back to her family, friends, teammates, and coaches, who provided her with tremendous support and the environment to prosper.

“Ever since my accident, I found really early on I wasn’t really going to be able to accomplish anything on my own,” she said.

In particular, Lambert thanked her mother, Judy Lambert, who is Noelle’s “rock,” and her fiancé, Mark Beirne, who supports her “crazy dreams.” 

“Always in the back of my mind, I’m doing it for the people who believe in me,” she said.

Fighting through the adversity, Lambert eventually returned to the UMass Lowell lacrosse team. After she became a track and field competitor, she was contacted by a scout from the U.S. Paralympic track and field team.

Lambert had received two specialized prosthetic legs — a running blade from the Challenged Athletes Foundation, and a waterproof prosthetic from the Heather Abbott Foundation — that helped her return to sports. 

Their help inspired her to start her own nonprofit group, the Born to Run Foundation, in 2018 to help donate specialized prosthetics. These devices can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and might not be covered by health insurance.

Born to Run started out giving specialized prosthetics to children, but later opened up to amputees of all ages. 

One of the people who benefited was Derek Loccident, another para long jumper on Team USA, who was given a jumping blade for his left leg. 

“That was really cool, and really special to be a part of his journey, and to see the incredible athlete that he is,” Lambert said. 

When asked whether she had other goals, Lambert said she would love to return to the reality television show “Survivor.” She was a contestant in the show’s 43rd season, in 2022, filmed in Fiji. 

“I will never say no to any new and exciting challenge that comes my way,” she said. “I just love having the opportunity to kind of portray a message out to the world that just because I’m an amputee, it doesn’t limit me, and I can still live the life that I want, just like any other regular human being with two legs.”


Lambert has also been sharing her sports journey on @noellelambert on Instagram.


  1. I hope they do a movie– this is one of the most
    determined and inspirational persons I have ever
    heard of–. I’m not much of a sports fan, but I am
    rooting for her with everything I have.

  2. Great story, Eunki! That accident changed a lot of lives, so great to read about Ms. Lambert’s path and success!

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