Ellie Cole's Message of Strength and Resilience - Women's Health

Ellie Cole’s Message of Strength and Resilience

The Paralympian on preparing for her fourth Games

by | Jul 4, 2021


Growing up, Ellie looked up to swimmers Susie O’Neill, Petria Thomas and Jodie Henry, and now, the 29-year-old has become a legend herself. Ellie, who specialises in freestyle and backstroke, has won 15 Paralympic medals (including six gold) and is featured in the 2020 Netflix documentary Rising Phoenix, a tribute to Paralympic great achievers. This will be her fourth Games.

Swimming isn’t just a sport…

It means a lot more than that to this star. “I grew up with one leg when everybody else had two. A lot of my memories when I was young are of being sidelined at school sport. When I got in the water, I felt the same as everybody else and that gave me a lot of confidence and that’s why I owe so much to Paralympic sport. Sport can change the world.” 

Her training schedule…

...is enough to make you need a sit down just from reading it. “We get up before the sun does and do nine pool sessions a week, and they’re about two to two-and-a-half hours long. Then we do three strength-and-conditioning sessions a week.  In between all of those sessions we’re doing a lot of physio, prehab work, massages, nutrition talks.”

Women’s Health Australia August 2021 cover featuring Paralympian Ellie Cole

Stress was a really big thing… 

…for Ellie last year. “I started getting a lot of stress migraines and I had to learn how to put myself first. So for me, I need to check in with myself and get up earlier to have a bit of quiet time before I go to training. And, as I’m leading up to a comp, I’ve started meditating. At first I didn’t think it’d work but I can’t believe the difference that it’s made.”

As soon as she finishes a race…

“The one thing I hear when I touch the wall is my mum. For some reason her voice carries over the 15,000 others.” It was also Ellie’s mum Jenny who first enrolled her in swimming as part of her rehabilitation, eight weeks after her right leg was amputated following a cancer diagnosis as a child. “Now, young kids are sending me pictures of stick figures of people in wheelchairs on top of medal podiums,” Ellie says. “They can see that people who have a disability can still be a champion and that’s something that I didn’t have growing up. It’s very important to me to be able to send that message of strength and resilience.”

This article first appeared in the August 2021 issue of Women’s Health Australia.

By Lizza Gebilagin

Lizza Gebilagin is the Editor-in-Chief of Women's Health Australia by day and boxer by night (and early morning). Prior to joining the team, she was deputy editor of body+soul, Cleo and Dolly magazines. She's also represented the NSW state boxing team at the National Championships and Women's World Qualifiers.

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