The Tokyo Aquatics Centre saw the last Paralympic race of another Para swimming great as Ellie Cole helped Australia take bronze in the women’s 4x100m mixed medley relay 34 points, the final event of the penultimate day of action at the Games on Thursday (2 September).
The medal marked Cole’s 17th, which saw her leapfrog legendary Australian Para swimmer Priya Cooper’s tally of 16.
“Even just warming up for my final tonight, I had to keep getting out of the pool because I was getting really teary. I said to my coach, 'Oh my gosh, I'm so emotional, you need to knock this out of me because I need to focus on my race.'
“It was quite emotional coming towards the end and to be able to finish my Paralympic experience on a relay was wonderful, I couldn't have asked for more,” Cole said.
Rising Phoenix star
One of the stars of the Netflix documentary “Rising Phoenix” about the history of the Paralympic Movement, Cole looked back to her previous Games and said future is bright for Para swimming.
“To be able to see the quality of athletes and the depth of Paralympic sport, I know that I'm leaving the Paralympic Movement in such a great place, and I'm going to thoroughly enjoy watching it from the grandstands and cheering for every country, not just Australia.
“Everyone that swims in the Paralympics is trying to do something bigger than just the sport. And so they're all champions in my eyes and I'm going to be cheering every single athlete.”
The fourth Paralympics was a unique experience due to all the uncertainties caused by the pandemic. But Cole said she could not have hope for a better atmosphere than she encountered in Japan.
“It's been very unique. The Tokyo Games is my fourth. You know, obviously I've been comparing it to the other three, and I've had such an enjoyable experience even with Covid.
“Japan, not being able to be at the venue, I've still felt the spirit of Japan everywhere like on the bus rides coming in, everyone's waving at the buses and just wants to be part of the experience. I've had the best time. Japan is one of my favourite countries in the world, so to be able to finish off my Paralympic campaign in a country that I love so much, it's been a dream come true.”
The best part of Cole’s dream was that she added two important pieces to her impressive collection.
"To walk away with two souvenirs, two medals [one silver and one bronze) … I'm very proud of myself and I just have memories forever that I will cherish.”
The journeys to Beijing, London and Rio transformed Ellie Cole in the star and role model she has become. But the swimmer says there is something about Tokyo 2020 that will make her last Games stand out the most.
“The biggest memory, the memory that I will always cherish the most and I actually got it on video, was walking into this stadium for the first time, because it was such a long journey to get here,” she said.
“The postponement, through a lot of doubt into if Tokyo is even going to go ahead, it's been a really hard few years, with a broken foot, making it here from Covid. So to be able to walk into the pool and just take it all in and just say we're here, that's been more special than any medal for me, just being part of the movement."