After 35 years of training, 2 countries, 3 sports and one devastating diagnosis, Carol Cooke’s dream of winning a gold medal came true at 51. This is her story.
Carol was born and bred in Toronto, Canada where she fulfilled a life-long dream of following in the footsteps of her family and served as a member of the Toronto Police Force in Canada for fourteen years. She had it all – an exciting and fulfilling career which also saw her working in the undercover drug squad.
But life was about to change dramatically, for better and worse.
Carol fell in love with an Australian, married and moved half way around the world and settled in Melbourne. After competing in Hobart at the Masters Swimming Nationals in 1998, she awoke one morning with disturbing balance problems and double vision.
After an array of tests she was bluntly told, “you have MS – go home and get your affairs in order before you become incapacitated”. She was understandably devastated and the rest of the day was a blur. Having only been married for three years and with no immediate family around, her thoughts revolved around how she was going to cope with this unpredictable disease.
Fortunately, Carol found the determination and spirit to defy what the doctor had told her.
Carol was a national level swimmer in Canada while she was growing up and with an unstoppable nature and a passion for sport, Carol took up competitive rowing in December of 2006, made the Australian Rowing Team in 2008 and 2009 where she competed at the World Rowing Championships, coming away with a 6th place. She has held a scholarship at the Victorian Institute of Sport since 2007 and in 2011 took up the sport of para-cycling in the trike class.
Carol was named on the Australian para-cycling team to compete in Denmark at the Para-cycling World Road Championships in 2011. She won two silver medals and in 2012 was named in the Australian Team for the London Paralympics.
At the Paralympics, Carol beat the men to win a gold medal in the mixed T1-T2 road time trial.
At the end of 2012, Carol was ranked number one in the world in the Female T2 category and in 2013 became dual World Champion, winning both the Time Trial and the Road Race. In 2014 she backed up her World Champion status and again was ranked number one in the world. In 2015 Carol retained her World Championship Title in the Road Time Trial and won silver in the Road Race.
In 2016 Carol was named on the Australian Paralympic team for Rio and came away with 2 gold medals in the Road Time Trial and Road Race. In 2017 Carol once again became a dual World Champion, retaining her #1 ranking and to cap off an amazing year was awarded the top award at the Victorian Institute of Sport – The Award of Excellence.
Although living with the never-ending symptoms of MS, Carol has the strength and courage to get up each day with a positive and motivated attitude. She has learnt to live for today and not worry about what may or may not happen in the future.
Carol supports others living with MS to fullfil their dreams through her initiative, the 24 Hour Mega Swim. Since its inception in 2001, the event has raised over $9 million and has provided more than 1000 Go for Gold Scholarships in the areas of employment, education, travel, the arts, sport and music.
Carol loves speaking with audiences about her life and passions and love empowering people to “Find their Inner Gold”.
Carol believes that “nothing is impossible if we dare to face our fears and believe in ourselves” and believes “the greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.”
CAROL IS ALSO AN AMBASSADOR FOR:
MS AUSTRALIA – to Advocate, Educate and Motivate