Golden girl Cole falls off cliff, then rises again
23 Nov 2015
Four-time Paralympic gold medallist Ellie Cole admits she took swimming for granted before a double shoulder reconstruction almost ended her sporting career and gave her the appearance of someone who’d “fallen off a cliff”.
Instead, the 23-year-old has been rejuvenated by her rehabilitation and is hoping to rise again for the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Cole was a star of the 2012 London Paralympics, claiming six medals in eight events – including four gold.
But Cole feared her elite swimming career could have been over when she endured reconstructions on both her shoulders in 2013. 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, while attending a training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.
Cole is quickly beginning to resemble her old self. At this year’s IPC World Championships in Glasgow Cole claimed three gold medals, including a world record in the 100m backstroke for S9.
“Going through a double shoulder reconstruction as a leg amputee is a really difficult thing to do, especially to come back into a world-class swimming career and try to become the world’s best again. I guess I’ve been a little bit hesitant in my comeback with putting expectation on myself,” Cole said.
“Slowly but surely I’ve seen myself return to No1 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 had given her a different perspective on swimming and she was now lapping up the challenge of returning to her best.
“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.
And when all of a sudden I was faced with a shoulder reconstruction and the surgeon telling me I might not be able to swim again, I guess that’s where I sat down and really thought 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.”
The Australian Paralympic swim team recently held a relays training camp at the AIS and Cole said she thrived on the team environment.
The Australian women’s 4x100m team comprising Cole, Maddison Elliott, Lakeisha Patterson and Ashleigh McConnell are current world champions and favourite for Rio.
“I was a bit worried coming back from my reconstruction because the whole team has changed and I didn’t know how I would fit in as a piece of the puzzle but it’s better than it ever has been before. Everyone that’s here wants to be here and wants to be the best in the world. We all get behind each other to help that happen,” Cole said.
“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, but we’re not going to say what the Americans have said in Sydney 2000 and say we’re going to smash everyone like guitars. 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.”
Patterson said: “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.”