The Paralympic gold medallist Ellie Simmonds has become a household name since bursting onto the swimming scene almost a decade ago aged just 12. Four years after her success at the London Paralympics she holds countless gold medals, 10 world records and an OBE, and that merely scratches the surface of her achievements.
We spoke to Ellie about her training regime, her inspirations and changing attitudes towards Paralympic athletes.
Why did you first start swimming?
Originally to learn to swim and discovered I enjoyed it so carried on.
What have been the major challenges you have faced over your career? Is there one in particular that stands out?
No one particular stands out I think whatever I have been doing I am always looking to improve so the next step is the next challenge.
There was a lot of hype in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympics; is it any different for the Rio games later this year?
Yes very different. Before London the whole country talked about it, it was on the news, adverts everywhere so it really was exciting. Rio will be much lower key and you won’t hear a lot about it till closer to the event.
Yes I am looking forward to Rio, we have to qualify in April so once the team is announced then you can let yourself start to really focus on it. Training has been full on 18 hours a week in the pool plus gym sessions. Para-swimming has moved forward hugely so the competition gets tougher every time.
Do you think your success, and the success of other British paralympians in 2012 has changed people’s attitude towards disabled athletes and disability in general?
Yes I believe it has, I think more people realise that we are athletes who train just as hard as any other athlete but just happen to have something different about us. I think on a wider scale they are more understanding of disability and it doesn’t hold the same fear.
You have been heavily involved with Sports Relief for a long time, why do you think Sports Relief is so important?
It helps some amazing projects both here in the UK as well as abroad. It helps change people’s lives, but in doing so it also encourages people who support it to be active, which is so important.
Achieving sporting success and continuing to do so, as you have, is hard work. What inspires you to keep going when it gets hard? Any advice for our readers?
Success in anything doesn’t come without hard work and dedication, when it gets tough these days I remember that feeling of standing on the Podium in London and Beijing and I know I want to feel that again.
If you enjoy what you do, it never seems as hard.
The media has been full of stories of drug doping recently, what precautions do you have to take to make sure you stay on top of the regulations?
We have regular information sent on any changes in the rules so apart from being regularly tested, we also attend training sessions about it. Before I take any medication even if it has being prescribed, I have a look at a website where I can check if it is banned or not.
If you could swim anywhere in the world where would it be?
I would like to compete in Australia, and also back in the Water cube in Beijing. But having recently discovered swimming in the sea I would like to swim somewhere like Hawaii to get up close with some amazing sea life.