The different journeys of Ellie Cole, Sam Short and Mollie O’Callaghan on the opening night of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

Ellie Cole walked onto the pool deck for the Women’s 100m Freestyle S9 Final with an added purpose.

He seemed slower than usual, more deliberate, as he looked around the packed arena at the Sandwell Aquatic Center.

You could see his mind racing, thinking about the last time before he retired.

And when Australia’s most decorated Paralympian hit the wall in fifth place, it all started to come to light.

“As I walked away from the pool and looked behind me one last time, I think that’s when it really hit me,” said an emotional Cole.

Ellie Cole, right, hugged her long-time rival Sophie Pascoe after her last race.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

“It’s really special to be a Paralympic athlete, I don’t think I can really put into words how much the Paralympic movement has completely changed my life.

“I was thinking back to when I was a little girl and I felt like it was yesterday when I had a floater on my back.

“So much has happened since then, and I owe everything I am to the Paralympic movement and knowing that it’s over, I guess I have to find something else to do.”

While Cole failed to get a medal in his last race, that hardly matters.

He came to Birmingham to say goodbye to his sport, to his friends, to an important part of his life, and he has done it his way.

“I just fell in love with everything it was to be a Paralympic athlete, which is why I went to four Games, I would go to many more if my body would let me,” she said.

“Now I get to sit back and watch the Aussies dominate for the next five days, and I’m the biggest swimming fan in the world and I get pool tickets, so that’s great.”

The beginners club

Sam Short smiles and holds up his silver medal.
Sam Short was delighted to win silver.(ABC Sport: Amanda Shalala)

Sam Short is sure to get Cole excited in the stands for days to come.

In his first international final, the 18-year-old was part of an Australian trifecta in the men’s 400m freestyle.

World champion Elijah Winnington won gold, Short silver and Mack Horton bronze.

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