After 41 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. Also this year she was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to sport and philanthropy.
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. She continued to race with another 2 World Championships in 2019.
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 $11 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.”
If you would like to know more about Carol, her unique story is now in a book!
Finding Your Inner Gold
In this second edition of her original book, ‘Cycle of Life’, Carol shares her secrets to finding your inner gold, overcoming adversity, accepting change, finding your hidden courage and creating a winning mindset. She truly believes that if you dare to face your fears and believe in yourself you can overcome anything.
2019 Australian Female Road Para Cyclist of the Year
2019 Dual World Champion – World Road Para Cycling Championships
2018 Victorian Female Para Cyclist of the Year
2018 Dual Silver Medallist – World Road Para Cycling Championships
2017 Award of Excellence – Victorian Institute of Sport
2017 Australian Female Para Cyclist of the Year
2017 Dual World Champion- World Road Para Cycling Championships
2016 Victorian Cyclist of the Year
2016 Australian and Victorian Female Para Cyclist of the Year
2016 2 x Gold Medallist – Rio Paralympic Games – Road Race and Time Trial
2015 Australian and Victorian Female Para Cyclist of the Year
2015 World Champion Female T2 – Road Time Trial – Silver medallist Female T2 – Road Race
2015 Finalist Victorian Australian of the Year
2014 Victorian Female Para Cyclist of the Year
2014 Dual World Champion Female T2 – Road Race and Road Time Trial
2014 Honoured as a Member – Order of Australia (AM)
2013 Female Sportsperson of the Year – Vic Disability Sport and Rec
2013 Elite Athlete with a Disability- Victorian Institute of Sport
2013 Victorian Cyclist of the Year
2013 Victorian Female Para Cyclist of the Year
2013 Australian Female Para Cyclist of the Year
2013 Dual World Champion Female T2 – Road Race and Road Time Trial
2012 Victorian Female Para-cyclist of the Year
2012 Nominated for Australian of the Year
2012 Gold Medallist – London Paralympic Games – Paracycling – Road Time Trial
2011 Dual Silver Medallist – World Paracycling Championships – Denmark
2011 Minister for Health Volunteer Awards – Commendation
2011-2015 Included in the Who’s Who of Australian Women
2010 Included in the Who’s Who of Australian Women under the category of hope & courage
2009 John Studdy Award, from MS Australia
2008 Included in the Inaugural Who’s Who in Victoria and the Who’s Who of Australian Women
2006 Victorian Masters Sportsperson of the Year Victorian Sports Awards.
2006 Herald Sun Pride of Australia Awards Role Model Category
2003 The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International Named a Paul Harris Fellow
2001 Rotary International Shine on Award – Certificate of Commendation
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