We have some legends in the Gong-sphere with some amazing ambassadors on our side. Introducing:
Brad is one of Australia's greatest cyclists. Having spent the last four years as Director Sportif with World Tour team Saxobank, he is now head coach of the NSW Institute of Sport, the very place where he began his cycling career.
Brad's major achievements began in 1993 when he was named Australian Male Cyclist of the Year. He continued to excel professionally and in 1994 he won gold at the Commonwealth Games for individual and team pursuits. In 1998 he defended his Commonwealth titles to win gold in both events then again won gold in 2002 for individual pursuit.
Brad has participated in four Olympic Games and brought medals home from three. The 1996 Atlanta Olympics was his first, resulting in two bronze medals for the individual pursuit and team pursuit. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000 he set an Australian record and won a bronze medal for the pursuit. In 2004 he won a gold medal at the Athens Olympics in the team pursuit and silver for the 4000m individual pursuit.
Brad’s cycling career has seen him win gold in three UCI Track Cycling World Cup Classics. In 1997 and 2004 he won the individual pursuit and in 2008 first in the team pursuit.
His greatest success as a road cyclist has been winning the 2003 prologue of the Tour de France and leading the race for three days. In 2004 he wore the leader’s pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia for a day. In 2005 he wore the leader’s golden jersey for four days in the Vuelta a Espana. Brad was the first Australian to lead the Tour of Spain, and the first to wear the leader’s jersey of all three Grand Tours.
With his impressive record and 20 years of experience, Brad runs an international development program delivered in partnership with Cycling Australia and Cycling NSW, helping to scout, recruit and train the next cycling legends in Australia.
Ben is one of Australia’s most successful track cyclists, renowned as being one of the most versatile cyclists this country has ever produced. Since 2013 he has brought his experience and enthusiasm to NSW Institute of Sport as their current Road Coach.
Ben won his first junior World Title in 1998, defending his title again in 1999 in the kilometre time trial and team sprint. He also holds two junior World Records.
In his career during 2003 - 2007, Ben won an outstanding nine Australian National Track Championships events, placing in 10 others.
In 2004 Ben was chosen for the Australian team to participate at the Athens Olympics, adding yet another major achievement to his already prosperous career.
Competing at the World Cup in 2005 saw Ben take 1st place in the kilometre time trial. He went on to win this same event the following year at the World Cup in Los Angeles. That same year Ben achieved another career highlight winning a Gold Medal at the Commonwealth Games. 2006 was a successful year for Ben, becoming a World silver Medallist in the kilometre time trial at the World Track Championships.
Carol Cooke AM, is a triple Gold Medallist Paralympian who was born and bred in Toronto, Canada and lives with the daily challenge of multiple sclerosis. She is also the founder of another MS fundraising event, the MS 24 Hour Mega Swim, which is now held year-round across ACT, NSW and VIC, and has fundraised over $8 million for people living with multiple sclerosis.
After bluntly being told "you have MS. Go home and get your affairs in order before you become incapacitated", she did the exact opposite and with determination and spirit to defy her doctor, Carol set her sights on her athletic ambitions.
Carol has held a scholarship at the Victorian Institute of Sport since 2007 and now competes in the sport of Para-Cycling in the Trike class. Carol was named in the Australian Para-Cycling Team for the 2011 Para-Cycling World Road Championships in Denmark, where she won two Silver Medals and was also named in the Australian Team for the 2012 London Paralympics. At the Paralympics, Carol achieved the highest of athletic ambitions and won a Gold Medal in the mixed T1-T2 road Time Trial. At the end of 2012, Carol was ranked number one in the world in the Female T2 category, became a dual World Champion in 2013 and was honoured as a Member – Order of Australia (AM) in 2014.
Just last year, Carol travelled to Brazil to represent Australia again at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Competing in both the time trial and road race, Carol added to her outstanding athletic achievements and brought home two additional Gold Medals!
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. Carol believes that “nothing is impossible if we dare to face our fears and believe in ourselves” and says that “the greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.”
Tina was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2016 on her 40th birthday and describes this life changing experience as feeling like a “giant hand had reached into her joyful world and tore out every ounce of potential – all she could see was black”.
While living with the challenge of ongoing pain and fatigue, this operations manager realised she needed to adapt to the new route her life had taken. Intuitively, this amazing woman reached out to MS Connect who provided information, support, services and employment advice.
Today, Tina sees her journey to “live well with MS” not only a constant challenge, but also an “individual ride” through life and on the road participating in the 2017 MS Gong Ride. With the support of her team of family, friends and fundraisers, she firmly believes, if she can ride this path - anyone can – even in a red tutu!
At 12 years of age Stephen Papadopoulos sat in a classroom listening to a presentation about the MS Readathon™, not knowing that just a few years later, at 16, his first MS symptoms would appear.
“I’ve been living with pain for the past 10 years which consists of sharp stabbing pains throughout my body, pins and needles in my hands and feet, a burning sensation over the right side of my body, and pain down my legs, at the back of my neck and in the base of my spine,” says Stephen. “Touching or hugging someone, holding a phone, opening a door, or doing most things other people take for granted causes me pain. I’m lucky if I get two hours sleep a night.”
Stephen acknowledges living with multiple sclerosis is tough. It can be even harder when you have an invisible symptom like pain. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001 at the age of 22, every day is an effort and a challenge for Stephen, but despite the pain and ongoing appointments with doctors he is often laughing and smiling, and people ask him why. “How can I not be when I see 10,000 bike riders taking part and fundraising to support people like me”.
Stephen is an inspiration to many, and is famous in the world of the MS Gong Ride, as he has been an ambassador since 2005. He enjoys talking about and raising awareness of multiple sclerosis and is a regular at many of the fundraising events which participants hold to raise vital funds.