ACU student Ellie Cole and alumni Melissa “Milly” Tapper have their sights set on the podium in Rio as the 2016 Paralympic Games got underway in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Rio will be Ellie Cole’s third Paralympics, and the freestyle and backstroke star is expected to a leader for Australia’s swimming team.
Ellie, who at age three had her right leg amputated, is already a known entity on the international stage having won nine Paralympic medals, including four gold, in a career spanning a decade as part of the Australian team.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Ellie since a triumphant six-medal haul in London. She has suffered a serious shoulder injury in 2013 that required potentially career-threatening double reconstructive surgery. However the 24-year-old left little doubt she was back to her best, returning to the international stage at the 2015 World Championships and winning five medals, of which three were gold.
Rio will give Ellie the chance to defend her 100m freestyle and 100m backstroke titles, as well as competing in the 50m and 400m freestyle, 4x100m medley relay, and 4x100 freestyle relay.
While history beckons for Ellie, Milly Tapper has already etched her name in Australian sporting folklore even before picking up a table tennis bat.
Milly shot to fame when she became the first athlete to represent Australia at both a Paralympic and Olympic Games, qualifying for Rio in dramatic fashion back in March.
After cutting her teeth against some of the world’s best players, the 26-year-old has her sights set on earning a first Paralympic medal since reaching the semi-final stage in London four years ago.
Milly started her Paralympic campaign overnight, claiming a convincing 3-1 win over Ertis Urman from Turkey in her opening singles match of the tournament.
Both studying a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science, Milly and Ellie have been part of ACU’s Elite Athlete and Performer Program (EAPP), which provides students who are athletes and performers with support and assistance as they aim to compete and perform on the biggest stage.