At just 26-years-old, Ellie Simmonds is hoping to qualify for her fourth Paralympic Games. GiveMeSport Women catches up with one of the most recognised Para-swimmers in the world.
Most athletes are normally 26 – or older – before they first experience a Paralympic Games. In contrast, Simmonds will go into Tokyo 2020 a veteran.
She competed at Beijing 2008 aged 13, winning gold in the 100 metre freestyle S6 and 400m freestyle S6. More success came at London 2012, where she topped the podium in the 400m freestyle and 200m individual medley in front of an ecstatic home crowd.
By the time Rio 2016 came around, Simmonds was a known star. She added another gold to her collection in the Brazilian city, retaining her 200m individual medley title. During the three Games in question, Simmonds also earned a silver and two bronze medals.
With such an impressive record at the Paralympics, has Simmonds got a personal target for more gold medals?
“For me, it's just to compete at the moment,” she responds. “Just to go. I'm very lucky that at past Games I've achieved a lot, and so for me, to just go to a fourth Paralympics is my target. From there, I’ll just go and race my heart out.”
Simmonds, who was born with the genetic disorder achondroplasia, is still waiting on confirmation that she is heading out to the Japanese capital this summer. She achieved the Paralympic consideration requirement time at an event in Sheffield last month, and will be hoping to find her name on the Team GB list soon.
“They don't announce the team till June, but I hit the qualification time so I'm just waiting for my name to be on the team,” Simmonds explains.
At the moment I’m still planning and focusing towards the summer, but I think once I see my name on the list, it'll be exciting and all steam ahead towards the Games.
Unsurprisingly, Simmonds was affected by the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. She was able to train during later lockdowns in England after the Government granted elite dispensation to athletes, but the initial lockdown this time last year left her far from a pool.
“The first lockdown, for everyone, we were all stuck indoors,” she says. “I had that lockdown with my parents in Aldridge and was able to do sport onland, so I did lots of yoga, and made a gym in my parent’s kitchen, and just tried to keep as fit as I could on land. Since then, I’ve been very lucky to be able to still train.”
With the pandemic still rolling on, coronavirus will ensure the upcoming Paralympic Games are completely different to those that have come beforehand. Competitors will be tested regularly, with their movements restricted to the Athletes’ Village and competition venues. It has already been announced international spectators will be banned.
Simmonds accepts the Games will be out of the ordinary, but remains optimistic her experience will still be special.
“I think it's going to be a totally different Games,” she says.”I think, yeah, it's going to be in the Olympics and Paralympics, but the world is in a pandemic, and the IOC and IPC have stated that everyone will probably have to get tested every day, so it's going to be different.”
We're still so fortunate and lucky to be able to go out there and compete, and compete for our country.
"I'm very lucky that this hopefully will be my fourth Games and that I will have experienced the past four Paralympics well. They all are different anyway, because they're all in different countries, and the different countries put their own spin on the Games, so these Games will probably be a bit different too.”
Regardless of the backdrop the Paralympics take place against, competing at four Games is an incredible achievement. Simmonds will be hoping to make her mark once again.News Now - Sport News