Gold medallist Ellie Cole gears for a comeback at 2016 Rio Paralympics

By @iamkarlatecson on
Ellie Cole
Australia's Ellie Cole blows a kiss after placing first in the women's 100m freestyle - s9 final at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the Aquatics Centre September 7, 2012. Reuters

After a double shoulder reconstruction that gave her the appearance of someone who’d “fallen off a cliff,” four-time Paralympic gold medallist Ellie Cole has been rejuvenated by her rehabilitation and is hoping to rise again at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

The 23-year-old swimmer was touted as the golden girl at the 2012 London Paralympics, after claiming six medals in eight events, including four gold medals.

However, Cole endured reconstructions on both her shoulders in 2013, which she feared then as something that would end her elite swimming career. Cole, who had her leg amputated as a child because of cancer, says she looked like the victim of a serious accident.

“I’d always be walking down the supermarket, my arm in a sling and a prosthetic leg and someone would think it all happened at the same time … people thought I’d fallen off a cliff or something,” Cole said in an interview.

Thanks to her rehabilitation, Cole is quickly beginning to resemble her old self. At this year’s IPC World Championships in Glasgow, Cole bagged three gold medals, including a world record in the 100m backstroke for S9.

“Slowly but surely I’ve seen myself return to No.1 again and it’s something I never thought would happen. I’m confident heading into Rio. There’s still a lot of work to do with my rehabilitation, so I’m doing good results now and I plan on doing even better results next year,” Cole said.

The shoulder injuries gave Cole a different perspective on swimming. “I think going through a reconstruction was a really positive thing for me. Obviously I’ve been quite grateful for my swimming career but it’s been something I’ve taken for granted,” she shared.

Having been told that she might not be able to swim again, Cole realized that swimming does matter a lot more to me than I think it does. “Having that taken away from me for a really short time was absolutely terrible … I do have a very different approach to my training and racing now, I think that’s what’s making the biggest difference - I’m just a lot happier,” she said.

The Australian Paralympic swim team recently held a relays training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport or AIS, and Cole said she thrived on the team environment.

“Obviously the team morale is very high here and we do have a lot of trust in each other. I think we are confident going into Rio… I guess we do have to maintain a bit of modesty there and know that every other country in the world is trying to beat us because we are the best right now,” she said.

The Australian women’s 4x100m team comprising Cole, Maddison Elliott, Lakeisha Patterson and Ashleigh McConnell are current world champions and favourite for Rio.

“This camp has helped a lot because we don’t really get to focus on relays a lot. But when we do come together, it’s really helpful, just working on those processes to be able to be number one in Rio next year,” Patterson said.

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