Listen: Paralympian Carol Cooke chats to Laura on Hope Breakfast. Images: Cycling Australia, WomenWhoCycle, Paralympic Committee
Since returning from the Rio Paralympics with two gold medals, cyclist Carol Cooke hasn’t stopped for a break, with welcome events, parties, even a dinner in Abu Dhabi—and now, the famous ‘Gong Ride’.
The famous 90-kilometre cycle from Sydney to Wollongong has double meaning for Carol: not only is it a chance to get back on the three-wheeled bike she loves, but it also raises funds for the disease that affects her own life every day: Multiple Sclerosis.
Carol explained that MS, a disease of the central nervous system, affects everyone differently. For her, it means neural pain 24 hours a day.
“You know when your foot falls asleep and its tingly? Mine are like that,” she explained, “and if I get tired or overheated, my feet get hot and it’s like I’m walking on hot coals. That happens to me unfortunately in some of my races, and the pain is excruciating, every pedal stroke.
“I also have bladder and bowel problems that people don’t want to talk about, and don’t see, so it’s a very hidden disease.
“My feet get hot and it’s like I’m walking on hot coals. That happens in some of my races, and the pain is excruciating”
“A lot of it might be sensory; you could have balance problems, that’s why I ride a three-wheeler, a trike. It affects other people with paralysis. It’s a disease of the central nervous system so that affects everything – your brain, spinal cord, optic nerve, and it can be extremely debilitating. And it’s a progressive disease, with no known cause yet, and no cure.”
Despite the challenges of her illness, Carol’s great passion is to “do what people say you cannot do”, which she continues to do by getting on her trike and defying the odds. Riding actually helps her body to continue moving, and keeps the effects of the illness at bay.
On Sunday, November 6, she’ll join thousands of people in the event, with some in the 90 kilometre ride and others taking the 56 kilometre route.
Carol encourages others to join her, saying she will stop at every coffee station on the way.
“The Gong ride’s not a race, its about raising funds and having a really good day,” she said. “I’m sure there’s people that take all day – which will be me!”
To get involved or sponsor a rider go to the Sydney To The Gong website.