As we approach the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we’re more than proud to be official partners of both Australian Teams. Join us over the next few weeks in The Rio Sessions, where we’ll be introducing our fearless Swisse Olympic and Paralympic ambassadors, sharing their stories, dreams and successes
In Session: Ellie Cole
Melbourne-born swimmer Ellie grew up thinking it was normal to only have one leg, and it’s that attitude that has served as a basis for her amazing sporting career ever since. She’s been on the Australian Olympic Swimming team for 10 years now, has competed in two Paralympics and has plans to compete in at least two more. On top of that, she is the world record holder in the 100m freestyle and the 100m backstroke, and was awarded an OAM for her service to Australian sports.
Her Road to Rio
Ellie was first diagnosed with neuro sarcoma when she was just two; her mum thought she had a spider bite behind her right knee and took her to hospital. Instead, it turned out to be an aggressive cancer. Doctors amputated her leg at three, and she suffered through extensive chemo before getting the all clear. As part of her rehabilitation, her mum, a keen swimmer herself, enrolled her in swimming lessons.
Her career began rather inauspiciously though when she competed in her first race when she was ten… and promptly lost. Her goggles had fallen off and stopping to readjust them, she was left behind. Four years later, more determined than ever, she earned a spot on the Australian team and was the youngest swimming team member. She went to the 2006 IPC World Swimming Championships in South Africa and brought home silver, before competing in the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. She amazingly won silver and bronze.
Then she did something drastic. She moved to the Ukraine and joined an elite training environment where she trained harder than she ever had before in preparation for the London 2012 Paralympics.
It paid off; she was awarded six medals, four of them gold. Shortly afterwards she had to undergo a double shoulder reconstruction, which threatened to end her successful career. True to form, it only slowed her down momentarily, and last year she managed to win five medals (including two gold) at the World Championships.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, this year she broke the 50m freestyle world record in her category at the Adelaide Olympic trials. Needless to say she is a hot contender for a medal haul in Rio.
Why you’ll love her
Fearless is a word that comes to when talking about Ellie Cole. From training with such intensity at a young age to coming back from surgery better than before, the girl’s got pizzazz! But the story that says explains Ellie’s attitude is the one about how she refused to put up with bullying at school. She famously threw her leg across a classroom at a boy who called her ‘pirate’ and was subsequently never bullied again.
She gets her kicks outside of swimming as well, even playing wheelchair basketball at State level a few yeas ago. And when she needs to get away from ‘black line fever’ in the pool, you’ll find her rock climbing or coaching kids in swim. Oh and did we mention her favourite movie is Million Dollar Baby? A story about an amazing athlete overcoming incredible adversity wining universal respect along the way… sounds familiar?
Our favourite Ellie quotes
On being disabled: “Having a disability growing up I did have a lot of people throughout the way that told me that maybe I should sit something out. I guess I always aimed pretty high when it came to functioning as a normal person. I think that’s why my disability really hasn’t gotten the better of me. I've set my goals high in life and in swimming as well.”
On training: “I remember the day it just changed and I just completely changed my attitude towards training. I never looked back from that day and everything that I did was 110%. I was exhausted. I was rocking in the corner of my room every Friday night crying because of how tired I was, but I knew that if it would get me the gold medal it would be worth it and it was.”
On representing her country: “My favourite thing in the world is to represent Australia! I think Paralympians have a really great opportunity to completely change what people think of disabilities. We have a really strong message to send to each and every one of you. That message is to Never Give Up.”
Catch Ellie in the pool next month in Rio where she will compete for gold against some of the fiercest swimmers the world has to offer.
Check out Ellie's ambassador page here.