Para Swim Stars Light Up The Sydney Opera House As Flagbearer Ellie Cole Sails Out Of Tokyo With A Record 17 Medals

Opera House Rowan Crothers 2
LIGHTING UP THE NIGHT: Stars of the successful Australian Paralympic team, honoured on the iconic sails of the Sydney Harbour Opera House, with bald headed swimmer Rowan Crothers in all his glory. Photo Courtesy Paralympics Australia.

Para Swim Stars Light Up The SydneyOpera House As Flagbearer Ellie Cole Farewells Tokyo With A Record 17 Medals

Australia’s triumphant Paralympic Swim Team is arriving home to unprecedented recognition after a spectacular medal haul of eight gold, 10 silver and 15 bronze for a total of 33 medals in the most competitive Games in history.

Blanket television coverage on the 7 Network, an injection of over $1million in medal incentive bonuses ($20,000 for gold; $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for a bronze) and their faces splashed all over the Sydney Opera House sails with their big brother Olympians.

Apart from their amazing performances in Tokyo the team shared their heart warming stories over a gripping fortnight that showcased the human struggles and the extraordinary personal and family battles of these inspiring athletes.


THE COLE FACE: Australian relay girls Keira Stephens (left), Ellie Cole (centre) and Emily Beecroft anxiously await the arrival of Isobella Vincent (out of picture) before the rookie touches for bronze in the 4x100m medley relay.  Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Television covered their amazing races and then revealed their emotional faces and their stories that told of even even more than their disabilities as the nation came to grips with a Covid-19 virus infection that has engulfed the “Big Island” down under, presenting the sports-loving country with some special rays of sunshine in what has been a gloomy year.

It followed Australia’s best ever Olympics in the pool as Emma McKeon, Kaylee McKeown and Ariarne Titmus led the Dolphins to a record breaking medal haul of 21 – topped off with eight gold.

And as if the Channel Seven Coverage of the Olympics wasn’t good enough to lift our spirits, enter the Para swimmers, led by four-time Paralympian Ellie Cole – who led a team of swimmers, determined to carry the torch for another 10 days – and topped off when Cole added a further two medals to her already heavy medal haul – for a record 17 career medals.

Defending champion Lakeisha Patterson opened proceedings with a last gasp touch in the 400m freestyle on a stunning first night on her mum’s birthday; before the arrival of bald-headed cult figure Rowan Crothers who added his own memories of Australia’s famed Mean Machine.

Will Martin relief

YESSSS: The moment Will Martin won gold in Tokyo…a moment captured by Swimming Australia photographer Delly Carr, sums up the feeling of winning. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

And new face Will Martin who showed us all what fighting spirit is all-about as he re-wrote the world record books, starting with his stunning 400m freestyle gold – before combining with Crothers, fellow individual gold medallist Ben Popham and the five-time Olympian, Matt Levy who has swum his way into the Para record books with his eighth and ninth medals – in their gold medal relay.

And the amazing feats of the two little blokes Ahmed Kelly and Grant “Scooter” Patterson who swam their way into the hearts of every Australian – rewarded with medals they will cherish fiorever.

And then wheelchair athlete Rachael Watson joined Patterson to successfully defend her 50m freestyle crown and who could forget the brave bronze medal in the 100m butterfly to Col Pearse, who trained in his family dairy farm dam in country Victoria.

For Cole, Tokyo was a fitting farewell. She finished her fourth and final campaign with silver and a bronze relay medals, taking her overall tally to 17 overhauling the 16 won by fellow swimmer Priya Cooper (And Channel 7 expert commentator) and making Cole Australia’s most decorated female Paralympian.

Earning her the honour of Australia’s flag bearer at the closing ceremony, from Paralympic Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin, a fitting farewell for the 29-year-who declared Tokyo would be her last hurrah after making her debut in Beijing, before London and Rio.

Ellie Cole on bloc ks

RACE FACE: Ellie Cole in the zone in Tokyo. The Australian flagbearer finished with a record 17th Paralympic medal, the most ever by an Australian female, Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

As an infant, Cole underwent chemotherapy to treat cancer. The chemotherapy didn’t work and her leg was amputated. She was introduced to swimming eight weeks later as part of her rehabilitation – even though the young Cole wanted instead to become a ballerina.

“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 fairy tale 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 on 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.”

And it’s been an absolute joy to witness these amazing athletes, who deserve every accolade we can throw at them..and a career highlight for Cole, who pass the baton on to a new generation in Paris in three years time.

Rowan celebration 5

WINNING FACE: And we couldn’t think of anyone better for our Parting Pic than Rowan Crothers, gold medallist in the 50m freestyle and the 4x100m freestyle relay for the Dolphins...”Do you think he’s happy?” We think it’s absolute gold! Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (alias the Photo Ninja) pictured below with two of his favourite Dolphins Ahmed Kelly and Grant “Scooter”Patterson. And we at SW thank Delly for supplying his award winning images to share with our readers.


14th September 2019, Aquatics Centre, London, England; London 2019 World Para Swimming Allianz Championships

Photo Courtesy: Georgie Kerr


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