Paralympics Star Ellie Simmonds Visits Chiswick School

She speaks to students about her experiences and the plans for the Games 'legacy'


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Paralympic Gold Medallist Ellie Simmonds received a rapturous welcome from students when she visited Chiswick School today (Friday, September 14).

The swimmer, who won two gold medals in the London 2012 Paralympic Games, told a special school Assembly that although hard work and dedication had paid off for her, it was equally important for young people to enjoy whatever sport they chose.

Ellie Simmonds at Chiswick School

Ellie (17) was in Chiswick to mark the launch of the Paralympic Games Legacy announced by Sainsbury’s. The company is to sponsor a £1 million PE training programme for teachers throughout the UK to ensure that up to 500,000 disabled children can participate in PE and sport within mainstream schools.

CEO Justin King said that Sainsbury’s will extend its sponsorship of the British Paralympic Association for the next four years, to the Sochi Winter Paralympics in 2014 and onto Rio in 2016. They hoped to inspire the next generation under its Active Kids For All programme, he said.

Photograph from Action Images

Questioned by the students Ellie, who is from Aldridge, near Birmingham, spoke about her training programme, the atmosphere during the Games, and the people who had inspired and supported her since she first started swimming at the age of ten.

“The experience of the Paralympics was amazing. You just walk out and there is this huge roar and all your nerves disappear. After that it’s just about the focus. My aim was to get a Gold and so to get two was just amazing.

" I knew I just had to get the head down and go for it and you have to give it all you’ve got. You’ve only got one life, but I was going to go for it even if it killed me”.

Ellie’s two gold medals were in the 400 m freestyle and the 200 m Individual Medley, where she broke her own World Record. She has won ten gold World Championships titles and became the youngest person to receive an MBE. She was the youngest British athlete in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, winning gold in the 100 and 400 freestyle events aged only thirteen.

Asked if she had a competition “ritual” she said she often listened to music before a major swimming event, and found Eminen’s ‘ Lose Yourself’ had inspiring lyrics.

And she revealed that her main worry, having been chosen to extinguish the flame at the Closing Ceremony, was whether it would singe her long hair.

“It’s a bit scary with 80,000 people watching you, I was terrified I would get it wrong but it was a great honour to be chosen. I really enjoyed the Closing Ceremony. ”

Outside her gruelling training schedule- she swims for two hours at six am every morning, before going into school where she is now in sixth form, Ellie said she was a “normal teenager” and enjoyed going to the cinema, shopping and dancing.

“The only problem is that I have to go to bed around nine because I’m so shattered from the early starts, ” she commented.

After taking some time off for a well-deserved rest, she intends to get into training for the World championships in Canada and then for the Rio Games.

“ I love travel, I was really inspired after going to the Beijing Games. I want to go to uni, and travel more around the world.”

She said the legendary American swimmer Michael Phelps had been an inspiration to her, and she paid tribute to her parents for their support. She now lives in Swansea with her mother during the week so that she can train at the Wales National Pool, and returns home at weekends to the family home in Aldridge.

“I really hope that people who watched the Paralympic Games will be inspired. It’s exciting to hear about the plans to deliver a true legacy. Including children in sport at school is the first step on what can be an exciting journey for young people, which could lead to a gold medal".

Sports display in Chiswick School

After the Assembly, Ellie went on to watch a display by Chiswick school students in the sports hall. The session showcased some of the activities that will be replicated throughout schools under the Sainsbury’s Active Kids For All scheme.

The programmes has been developed in partnership and will be delivered by Disability Sports organisations throughout the UK and Northern Ireland, alongside the Youth Sports Trust and is sponsored by the British Paralympic Association.

Others attending the event included former Paralymian medallist Chris Holmes MBE, the London Director of Paralympics, and Barry Horne, Chief Executive of English Fedration of Disability Sport. Tim Hollingsworth , the Chief Executive of the British Paralympic Association was also present.

The head teacher of Chiswick School, Mr. Anthony Ryan, said they were very honoured that the school was chosen to launch the event.

September 14, 2012

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