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Real voices: Ellie Simmonds, Paralympic swimmer

3 Sep, 2012
Ellie Simmonds and Oscar Pistorius Nick J Webb

Ellie Simmonds and Oscar Pistorius

Later today, British swimmer Ellie Simmonds will attempt to win her second gold medal of the 2012 Paralympics, as she races in the 200m. Here, we meet Ellie and hear about her life, in an interview originally published in the Wellcome Trust’s educational magazine Big Picture: Exercise, Energy and Movement.

Who are you?

I’m a 17-year-old British Paralympic swimmer. I was born with achondroplasia, a bone growth disorder that causes dwarfism.

How did you first get into swimming?

When I was really young, I went to swim classes. The club had a competitive side, so I was invited into the squad swimming when I was about seven and a half years old. It was then I discovered I really enjoyed competing.

What do you find hardest about swimming?

Getting up at 5.30am is definitely the hardest thing! But while I’m swimming, I think about what I am going to be doing the rest of the day or sing songs in my head.

What’s your training regimen?

I train in two-hour swim sessions nine times (over six days) each week at Wales National Pool in Swansea. I also do two one-hour gym sessions. It keeps me busy, which I like, but it’s also fun and I have made lots of friends through it.

You’ve been very successful and well recognised for someone of your age – how do you deal with this?

In 2008, I was the youngest British athlete in Beijing and won the Young Sports Personality of the Year Award, and I was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2009. I try to get on with life as normal but enjoy doing the extra things I get to do. You just get used to being recognised and stopped, but when I think about it, I feel very honoured and lucky. I hope I can inspire young people to be the best that they can be. I was inspired by Nyree Lewis (a Welsh Paralympic swimmer) in Athens 2004; she won five medals (two gold, two silver and a bronze) and set a new Paralympic record for the 100m backstroke.

You’ve pursued your academic career in conjunction with your swimming. What have you been studying?

I gained nine GCSEs in 2011: Maths, English, Double Science, History, Child Care, Food Technology, Sport and Welsh. When studying science, I most enjoyed the practical experiments and discovering new ideas. I am now in sixth form, studying part-time for A-levels in History and World Development.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to swim professionally?

My advice is first to enjoy what you do, but to work hard in every session.

Image credit: Nick J Webb on Flickr
3 Comments leave one →
  1. kim permalink
    5 Sep, 2012 12:42 am

    hey, i love u Ellie.
    im not got the condition u have but im in a wheelchair and i love u. im 15 yrs old and ive been in a wheelchair for about 5 mouths and never gonna give up. im T7 paraplegic person due to a car acciendent. ive been training every day and hopefully make it in Bazil Paralympics but very unlikely but ive for 4 yrs to train and if i dont make that one i will try to make the one after so i will have 8 yrs of training. best of luch Ellie with ur paralympc swimming, with you every step of the way xxx


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