On Thursday night in Tokyo, swimmer Ellie Cole became Australia’s most decorated female Paralympian of all time. She has a total of 17 Paralympic medals to her name, 6 of these are gold.
Cole smashed the medal record after her 34-point 4x100m medley relay team won bronze, coming in just behind the US and Russia.
Previously in Tokyo, she won silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay event. The 29-year-old has competed in each Paralympics since 2008, securing six gold medals, five silver medals and six bronze medals. Her collection has rocketed her past Priya Cooper, who previously held the most medal of any Australian female athlete at the Paralympics.
Cole’s success came on the same night that fellow swimmer Rachael Watson won gold in the S4 50m freestyle final, finishing with a Paralympic record of 39.36 seconds.
“I didn’t even know I won when I touched the wall,” Watson told Channel Seven after winning gold.
“I didn’t even think it was going to happen. I just can’t thank Australia and the world enough for embracing para sport and for embracing me as a person with a disability and believing in me.”
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Away from the pool, Vanessa Low put on a breath-taking performance, breaking her own world record three times in the T63 long jump, and winning a gold medal.
On Thursday night, she jumped 5.16 metres, then 5.20 metres and finally 5.28 metres, breaking the world record each time. It was a performance of a life time.
Speaking to Channel 7 afterwards, Low paid tribute to her husband, Paralympian Scott Reardon, for his ongoing support.
“This is a very special one,” Low said. “I know Rio was my first gold but being able to do this experience alongside my husband…having a familiar face in the crowd was so special and I am so very grateful for this opportunity.
“When we first met each other we immediately had that emotional connection and I think that is something very rare to find. We really support each other through the bad and the good. Having him by my side and having the ability to feed off each other’s energy is so amazing. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him.”
These athletes’ successes came on the same day that the federal government announced Australian Paralympic medallists would received the same financial reward as Olympic medallists.
Olympic gold medal winners in Tokyo received $20,000 from the Australian Olympic Committee, but no such reward scheme exists for Paralympians.
The disparity was highlighted when Chloe Dalton, an Olympian and AFLW player started a fundraising campaign earlier this week for Paralympic medallists. The federal government has said it will now ensure Paralympians receive equal payments to Olympians.
Ellie Cole posted an emotional video to her Instagram stories, explaining how happy she felt to be recognised as equal to her Olympic counterparts.
“I just really wanted to thank Australia so much for seeing us as equal and I need to pull myself together because I’m about to race a medley relay for Australia, but I love you guys,” she said.
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