A sports fanatic, workaholic, former undercover police officer and Multiple Sclerosis/Disability advocate, Carol Cooke AM PLY is one of the most inspirational figures in Australian sport.
Carol worked as a police officer in Toronto for 14 years including 4 years undercover in the drug and prostitution areas, following in her grandfather and parents' footsteps. After moving to Australia and in the process of building a new life she was devastated when diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1998. By 2001, her introduction to disability had begun.
In 2005 -identified at a Paralympic Talent Search Day at the age of 44. Represented Australia in the World Championships in 2009 in rowing – 2011 switched to cycling.
Diagnosed with a chronic illness 24 years ago Carol set herself goals many others wouldn’t have dared and continues to race internationally as a Para Cyclist. With 3 Paralympic Games under her belt she continues to challenge herself and others to believe that anyone can overcome adversity, accept change, find hidden courage and their own gold medal moment within themselves. She truly believes that if you dare to face your fears and believe in yourself you can overcome anything. Carol will inspire you to tap into your own resilience to achieve big dreams and HARNESS YOUR FORCE, by never giving up
Her introduction to disability took place in 2001 when she was in a wheelchair full time but through some medical intervention using Botox, intensive physiotherapy and getting back into exercise she decided that she now needed to incorporate her MS into a sporting life.
Carol was a national level swimmer in Canada while she was growing up. She took up competitive Para rowing in December of 2006, and 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.
She has gone on to win 3 Gold Medals at two Paralympic Games (2012 & 2016) and she has won 7 World Championships and continues to compete internationally. She has overcome significant adversity to become a role model providing ongoing inspiration not only to the Paralympic movement but also to able-bodied athletes and the community.
Carol is an inspiration to everyone she meets due to her kind, caring and ‘can do’ approach to life. Her deep understanding of life enables her to provide inspiration to groups ranging from senior management to school children. She helps people believe that nothing is impossible, that anyone can overcome adversity and self-doubt to find their inner gold.
She is also the founder of the MS 24 Hour Mega Swim in 2001, which has raised over $9 million and provides scholarships to people living with Multiple Sclerosis to follow a dream.
Carol was named in the 2014 Australia Day Honours List being named a Member of the order of Australia (AM). She received this award in recognition of her significant service to sport as a gold medallist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and for fundraising and representational roles with charitable healthcare organisations.
In 2015 Carol authored her book “Cycle of Life”. In 2017 Carol updated her book and changed the name to ‘Finding Your Inner Gold’, and her second book is 'The Force Within'. She also joined the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics and won on silver medal on women’s T1-T2 time trial.
Although living with the never-ending symptoms of this unpredictable disease, 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 believes that “Nothing is impossible if we dare to face our fears and believe in ourselves. The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.”