• To Birmingham 2022

Commonwealth Games Australia Alumni enjoy success at Paralympics and now target Birmingham

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The Tokyo Paralympics were a successful Games for the Australian Team winning 80 medals, including the 28 Commonwealth Games Australia Alumni winning 23 medals.

The Tokyo Paralympics came to a close Sunday night with Australian Paralympics legend Ellie Cole OAM selected as the flagbearer for the Closing Ceremony.

The four-time Commonwealth Games medallist made history at the Paralympics, becoming Australia’s most decorated female Paralympics medallist, winning her 17th career medal, but the announcement as flagbearer is a honour that she acknowledged as a special moment in her life.

“To be able to say my final farewell to our Paralympic team by representing them in what I consider to be one of the highest honours bestowed upon an athlete, it really is an honour. I’m honestly speechless,” Cole said.

“This moment means so much to me and will continue to mean so much to me for the rest of my life.

“It was a grind to get to Tokyo for all of the athletes and all of the staff on the team as well… so to be able to get through to this moment together, to be able to celebrate the last two weeks together as a team, and to be able to celebrate that as flag bearer on the final night, it honestly is a fairytale ending to such a wonderful career that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”

“When all of the athletes were going through the beginning of COVID and the last 18 months together, there were some really tough times for our Paralympic athletes. I think one of the biggest things was ‘the Mob’ culture and mentality. It doesn’t matter if you’re from swimming, cycling or boccia, we were all the phone to each other, we were all supporting each other through all of the highs and lows.

“Coming to this Games in Toyko, it was such a unique experience because we were already celebrating before the Games even began. We were celebrating just being here with each other and finally getting here. It’s been wonderful to share that celebration throughout the last two weeks with such a special team.”

 

 

Cole has been instrumental in promoting the Para-sport movement across Australia, not only for Paralympics Australia but also for the Commonwealth Sport Movement dating back to her Commonwealth Games debut at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games as an 18-year-old.

Her advocacy for the Para-sport movement was a key driver in the Australian Federal Government announcing additional funding to ensure Paralympic medallists would be awarded equal prize money as their Australian Olympics counterparts.

The parity between athletes and the equal footing between Para-sport team members and their able-bodied counterparts, such as in an Australian Team at a Commonwealth Games, is an enticing factor in Cole’s next decision in her illustrious career.

“I’ll leave it at my fourth [Paralympics],” Cole said.

“I do want to continue until the Commonwealth Games next year.

“I don’t know what Cate and Bronte are doing but the Commonwealth Games is the only event where I can travel with our Olympic guys… I’ve said farewell to my Paralympic team here, but I’m still very close to our Olympic swim team.

“I think I am going to get myself back up for the Commonwealth Games but if I decide to tap out, I’m happy with that.”

 

Ellie Cole after winning bronze at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games. (CGA Archive)

 

Cole says time flies when you’re having fun. She will leave the Australian Paralympic team as a legend.

“I never set out to be Australia’s most decorated Paralympian,” Cole said.

“All I cared about was swimming as fast as I could. That’s a result of many years of hard training and never giving up.

“Getting onto the charter flight and seeing our whole Paralympic team on there finally … seeing everyone in their Paralympic uniform was one of the biggest highlights of my life.

“We’ve all cried a lot this week. In our team area, there has been tears every single night. We are just so proud of each other.”

There were some incredible moments from the Australian Team across the Tokyo Paralympics and in particular a display of the Aussie grit was the gold-medal performance of Madison de Rozario in the Women’s Marathon T54.

 

 

De Rozario broke through for her maiden Paralympics gold medal earlier in the Games, but saved her best for the last day of the Games, stunning herself and her competition by taking out the gold in the same event she won at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The protégé of Australian Paralympic legend Louise Sauvage, de Rozario presented herself as a medal contender early into the event, hovering in the top 5 from the outset but clinched the win and a Paralympic record by leading the field only in the final few kilometres of the race.

Earlier in the week, Sauvage did a reconnaissance of the course and imparted words of wisdom that helped the 27-year-old make history.

Sauvage told her young charger that whoever was fastest to climb the final hill of the course, would win the race.

It was a battle between de Rozario and Schaer on the hill, but it was the Australian that entered the stadium first for the final lap around the track using every bit of strength left in her body to sprint for the win.

“It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t know if I can explain it. I didn’t expect this going in. I knew it was a flat course, but last time I raced in Tokyo, I didn’t finish the race here at all, so it’s a different story,” de Rozario said post-race.

“Susannah (Sarconi from the USA) took off from the very beginning of the race, so we thought we were all fighting for minor medals. And that last four kilometres, there was that hill that I was absolutely dreading. I’m so glad it was Manuella and I at the end of the race. She took the lead so much and then I took over so I could not be happier with that.”

With the victory, de Rozario cements herself amongst the medal favourites at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The Australian Dolphins Swim Team were amongst the success stories from the Paralympics with the team claiming 33 medals, including 16 medals for the Commonwealth Games Australia.

A star of the team was Glasgow 2014 gold medallist Rowan Crothers, who won three medals in the pool and captured the nation’s adoration with his passion and words about his teammates and the Para-sport movement.

He joined with Commonwealth Games Australia’s Athlete Advisory Group co-chair Matthew Levy OAM, Ben Popham and William Martin to win gold in the Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay 34 points event, an event that will be on the sport program at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

 

 

Lakeisha Patterson OAM was another star of the Tokyo pool, but suffered an interrupted lead-in campaign to the Tokyo Paralympics, which prevented her from completing her normal action-packed swimming schedule to just the sole Women’s 400m Freestyle S9 event.

However it didn’t stop the champion from winning gold in the event, and giving her the hunger for more.

The upcoming Commonwealth Games will also see the opportunity for the two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist to defend her titles.

 

 

Birmingham will also be an opportunity to right a result for Para-Triathlon star Lauren Parker.

After her stellar transition to the sport of Triathlon after suffering horrific training injuries while preparing for an Ironwoman competition, Parker has rapidly become one of the world’s best Para-Triathletes, capturing the bronze medal at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

With gold on her mind and ranked number 1 in the world, it was a cruel end to her race at Tokyo, where she was passed in the final few metres of the Women’s PTWC race to finish with silver.

Adding motivation to aim for the gold at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

 

 

In an exciting preview of what the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games can look like for the Australian contingent of Para-Table Tennis team members, with the 11 Australian players at the Paralympics, winning six medals, including two gold and four silvers.

Gold Coast gold medallist Melissa Tapper joined with Qian Yang and Lei Lina to win silver in the Women’s Team Class 9 – 10 event, while the pair of Yang and Lei won gold in their respective Women’s Singles classifications.

While the Men’s trio of Ma Lin, Joel Coughlan and Nathan Pellissier won silver in the Team Class 9 – 10 event.

The Birmingham Games will see the Women’s and Men’s singles competitions in the Class 3 – 5 and Class 6 – 10 competitions, where fans of the green and gold will be cheering for another medal haul.

 

The Australian Team had a wildly successful Games at the Tokyo Paralympics, following on the successes of the Australian Olympians, and captured the Australian public’s admiration and introduced the nation to a number of sport stars that will soon turn their focus to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Birmingham is now less than a year away, and we can’t wait to see the team members donning the green and gold again!

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