Simply the best – Ellie Cole is deservedly Australia’s closing ceremony flag bearer

Ellie Cole was named as Australia's flag bearer on Saturday after she surpassed Priya Cooper's record to become Australia's most decorated female Paralympian
Ellie Cole was named as Australia's flag bearer on Saturday after she surpassed Priya Cooper's record to become Australia's most decorated female Paralympian Photo: Swimming Australia - Twitter

There is always plenty of worthy names tossed around when discussing flag bearers for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies at the Olympics and Paralympics. But after Cole sealed her destiny as Australia’s most decorated female Paralympian to date, the decision to name her as the Closing Ceremony flagbearer became so much clearer.

Now a 17-time Paralympic medallist, Cole surpassed Priya Cooper’s record of 16 medals after winning one silver and one bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, in the 4×100 m freestyle 34 pts and the 4×100 m medley respectively.

Cole made her Paralympic debut in 2008 at the Beijing games swimming in the S9 class, winning three medals in individual events. She has competed at every Summer Paralympics since then winning four gold medals at London 2012 and two gold at Rio 2016.

The announcement that Cole would carry the Australian flag into Japan National Stadium for the Closing Ceremony came on Saturday.

Following the announcement, the 29-year-old labelled it as one of the highest honours to be bestowed upon an athlete.

“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.”

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Cole acknowledged that it was hard work to get to the Paralympics this year for both athletes and staff, but that they rallied together during the past 18 months to make sure everyone was supported through challenging times.

“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 was featured in the 2020 Documentary Rising Pheonix which focused on the journeys of several Paralympians in competition and upon the launch of the global human rights movement #WeThe15 she joined Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the A Winning Mindset podcast.

Australian Paralympic Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin acknowledged Cole’s contributions to the Paralympic movement in the pool and out of it following the announcement.

“Ellie Cole is a great Australian and a wonderful ambassador for the Paralympic movement in Australia,” McLoughlin said.

“Her achievements in the pool speak for themselves. But her contribution goes way beyond the many medals she’s won.

“Ellie has spoken passionately about the value of sport for people with an impairment and the importance of equal opportunities, as well as advocating for better recognition of our elite athletes.

“Her legacy and achievements make her a fantastic choice to carry our national flag into the stadium for the Closing Ceremony.”

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About Jacqui Dodd 135 Articles
Jacqui is a journalist based in Melbourne. A fan of all things sports she primarily focuses on Olympics and Tennis news. You can hear her on The Inner Sanctum's Olympics podcast, Ascending Olympus.

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