A sports fanatic, workaholic, former undercover police officer and multiple sclerosis advocate. Carol Cooke AM, is a Paralympian, world champion and one of the most inspirational figures in Australian sport. Carol was born in Canada and worked as a Police Officer for 14 years. She fell in love with an Australian, married and moved half way around the world and settled in Melbourne.
In 1998, after competing in Hobart at the Masters Swimming Nationals Carol awoke one morning with disturbing balance problems and double vision, another all too common symptom of MS was rearing its ugly head.
After an array of tests she was bluntly told "You have MS go home and get your affairs in order before you become incapacitated". Carol was told she would never walk again, let alone compete in sport. Carol was devastated. 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 and she defied the odds. By 2001 she was using a wheelchair full time. Through regular exercise and Botox injections in her legs, Carol not only walks she rows and cycles, at a national level. Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Carol has dedicated her working life to raising awareness and funds for MS. She developed and still leads the operation of the 24 hour Mega Swim event, dedicated to raising money for MS. Fourteen years later, the event has 17 swims running in Victoria, NSW and the ACT.
The Mega Swim raises money for the Go For Gold Scholarship program run by MS Limited and gives scholarships to people living with MS to follow a dream. The swims have raised over $6,000,000.00 which has also allowed MS Australia to initiate a Financial Assistance Scheme project for people with MS. 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 proved a natural on the water narrowly missing out on a position on the Beijing 2008 team and placed sixth at the 2009 World Rowing Championships. Carol switched sports to cycling with a plan to make the London 2012 Paralympic team. She went on to earn a Gold Medal in the mixed T1-T2 road Time Trial, even beating the men. In 2013 Carol became a dual World Champion in the Time Trial and Road Race. 2014 saw Carol undefeated winning the World Cup and World Championships again and finishing the season ranked #1 in the world.
Carol says that “nothing is impossible if we dare to face our fears and believe in ourselves and believes that the greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” It is advice she shares through her work as an inspiring motivational speaker telling of her incredible life story.
Carol offers motivation and inspiration for corporate and community events alike. Her keynote motivational speaking topics include change management, goal setting, health and wellbeing, high performance with a disability, achieving impossible goals and 'sharing the journey'. She adds value through engagement and connection.
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.