Vanessa Low was just a month off her 16th birthday and waiting for a train when the accident happened.
She stumbled off the train platform, in her hometown of Ratzeburg, Germany, and fell onto the tracks into the path of an oncoming train, changing her life forever.
Two weeks later, she woke from a coma to discover that both her legs had been amputated above the knee.
And now, 12 years down the track, the world champion sprinter is preparing to compete at her third Paralympic Games, has recently become an Australian citizen, and is about to marry Australian Paralympic champion Scott Reardon.
She’s also fallen in love with Canberra, and the pair plan to settle here and start a family after the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
“I love Canberra,” she says, and her happiness is palpable.
But while she’s always had a sunny outlook, her journey here hasn’t been easy.
For starters, she doesn’t remember her accident.
“I have a good five months of my memory missing, so I can't really recall quite a bit ahead of the accident, and after. It's blurry,” she says.
“It's probably not a bad thing, and probably a security mechanism of your body, because it kind of protects you, and you grow into it and have the time to adapt to the new situation. I was probably much more aware of my situation than I actually realised.”
For her, the benefit of a slow recovery meant she never had a single, defining moment of despair, but a series of small goals that took a long time to achieve.
“I always keep saying my story isn't about adversity, it's always about the choice, and I basically took the choice to make the best out of it,” she says.
“Not everything was easy and not everything was nice along the journey, but all up, I don't think I really had that moment of big grief or big regret or any of that.”
Her back injuries meant she couldn’t sit up for five months, and by the time she left hospital, her muscles had wasted away. For a girl who had always had an active lifestyle, getting her fitness back was the easiest way to define her aspirations.
“Breathing was hard, and all the little steps were quite tough in the beginning,” she says.
“I was always of a pretty positive nature and pretty into life, so I think all up, it was just good to get back into life and do one thing at a time.
"My biggest goal was just to return home, and finally sleep in my own bed again and go back to school and see my friends, and then eventually start walking."
Unlike her fiance, Scott Reardon, who famously learnt to walk again less than two months after the farming accident that severed his right leg at the knee, Low’s recovery took at least two years.
“My injuries were just much more severe, and so sport was a really good tool to get into good shape again and get into life again and be able to conquer life on my own, and then I really got drawn into competing.”
It was a sports talent camp that introduced her to running again, but after two years of learning just to walk again, getting used to her first set of “running legs” took time.
“In the first session I fell over, basically, every other step, and with my disability being quite a bit higher than those I compete against, I think I sometimes forget that back then it was not normal for someone with my my kind of disability to walk, let alone run," she says.
"There was just no one to look up to, there was no one in the Paralympics with my disability.
“For me, it just meant I had to figure out everything on my own.”
In 2012, despite competing against athletes who usually had one functioning leg, she made it to competition in the Summer Paralympics in London.
By then, she had nearly finished a degree in broadcasting and media, and was working as a television editor.
She didn’t win any medals in London, and with a satisfying alternative career, she contemplated retiring, but a friend’s husband convinced her to move to America and let him train her for the next games in Rio.
When, in 2016, she won the gold medal in the long jump, and a silver for the 100-metre sprint, it was more than just a symbol of her world champion status. It was also the culmination of a very long, hard journey.
“I don't think that people realise that medals aren't the main part for us,” she says.
“One medal is not what we train for, we train for the moment. Being in the stadium and knowing that I was at my best and knowing that my parents were there watching me, making them proud and me being proud of what I've achieved and actually enjoying the moment, that was the real reward.”
Now 28, she and Reardon are deep in training for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo -she'll be on the Australian team, for the first time - after which she says they’ll probably retire together.
“I reckon Tokyo is going to be the end for us, when we're 30,” she says.
If the couple’s wedding next month and Paralympic Games in two years don’t already clutter their horizon enough, Low says she also hopes to start a family post-retirement.
But she is remarkably sanguine about the future.
“I'll be fine,” she says.
“I think the biggest lesson I learned, in the period of my accident through to being an athlete, is it's going to be alright.
“Everything is going to be in place when it wants to be, and I just try to go with it, really.”