Real Voices interview: Ellie Simmonds
Paralympic swimmer and five-time gold medallist
We interviewed Ellie Simmonds in 2012 before she competed at the London Paralympic Games. To catch up with what Ellie’s been doing since 2012, check out her website.
Who are you?
I’m a 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 are well recognised – how do you deal with this?
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 100 m 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.
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.