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No rivalry as golden girls vie for gong

Ellie Cole is set to be a bridesmaid at the wedding of her friend and former housemate Alicia Coutts, but whether she'll have the chance to be the proverbial bride will be answered when the two go up against each other on Friday for the Australian Institute of Sport's athlete of the year award.

The swimmers were both successful in London, Cole at the Paralympic Games with four gold and two bronze medals, and Coutts at the Olympics with one gold, three silvers and a bronze.

But as competitive as they are in the pool, the pair don't feel like rivals as they vie for the AIS's top award.

''Not at all - me and Ellie aren't like that, we're really good friends and have been for a few years, but no, we're not like that at all,'' Coutts said.

Cole agreed: ''I haven't actually mentioned it to her at all yet, we're the least competitive people you'll ever meet - in the pool we're obviously competitive but with each other we're not.

''I've never said 'race you to the car' or anything.


''I have to let her win, don't I - I'd be a terrible bridesmaid if I didn't.''

Not only are they up against each other for the award, they have some stiff competition - gold medallist Olympic sailors Tom Slingsby and Malcolm Page, track cyclist Anna Meares and Paralympic athlete Evan O'Hanlon make up the other finalists for the title.

Cole is the only athlete to be nominated in two categories. She is also up for junior athlete of the year, scraping in just before her 21st birthday next month.

But since her London success, she has decided to call time on the AIS, returning to Melbourne to train with a social squad in her home town as she considers her swimming future.

''My training is not going too well, I've gotten back in the pool already, but I've had shoulder troubles for the past two years,'' she said.

''I had an MRI and ultrasound on them and they're not looking too good.''

Meanwhile, Coutts returned to full-time training at the AIS seven weeks ago, sporting a new engagement ring from the Games, and has no plans to move on.

''I think as long as I'm swimming I'd like to stay at the AIS. I have a good relationship with my coach and, obviously, the work we've been doing is working for me and I think it's the best place for me to be for my swimming,'' Coutts said.

With Cole in Melbourne, bridesmaid duties have been few and far between, with dress shopping taking a back seat to setting a date and finding a venue.

''It's pretty hard to get all the girls together at the same time,'' Coutts said. ''I've got one in Brisbane, one in Sydney, one in Canberra and one in Melbourne now. It makes it quite difficult.''

It hasn't stopped her friend from trying to help out.

''I've already been bridesmaid dress shopping for her and was showing her ideas,'' Cole said.

''Of course, they were all the ugliest dresses I could find!''