‘Fairytale ending’: Swimming great Ellie Cole to carry the Australian flag at the Paralympic closing ceremony

“To be able to say my final farewell to our Paralympic team by representing them in what I consider to be one of the highest honours bestowed upon an athlete, it really is an honour,” Cole said.

“It was a grind to get to Tokyo for all of the athletes and all of the staff on the team as well, so to be able to get through to this moment together, to be able to celebrate the last two weeks together as a team, and to be able to celebrate that as flagbearer on the final night, it honestly is a fairytale ending to such a wonderful career that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”

Cole bagged a silver and bronze medal in Tokyo, making her Australia’s most decorated female Paralympian of all time.

Australian Paralympic Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin, who conferred the honour on Cole, said her contributions went “way beyond” the medals she has collected.

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“Ellie has spoken passionately about the value of sport for people with an impairment and the importance of equal opportunities, as well as advocating for better recognition of our elite athletes,” Ms McLoughlin said.

“Her legacy and achievements make her a fantastic choice to carry our national flag into the stadium for the closing ceremony.”

Australia has collected a total of 80 medals throughout the Tokyo Paralympics; 21 gold, 29 silver and 30 bronze.

The closing ceremony will begin about 9:20pm AEST on Sunday. 

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed the Opera House would be lit up with photographs of the athletes who represented Australia in Tokyo for the closing ceremony.

NSW Minister for Sport Natalie Ward said the light display, which will be streamed online, was the state’s way of thanking the athletes for a very welcome distraction during the state’s lockdown. 

“This year’s Olympics and Paralympics gave us all a much-needed lift and so much joy during these difficult times. Every athlete, coach and official should be incredibly proud of their efforts,” Ms Ward said.

“Just as we were all able to watch their fantastic efforts from our living rooms, we can now pay tribute to our Aussie athletes from the safety of our homes.”

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