Paralympic star Ellie Simmonds is ‘moved’, she inspired others in London 2012 and wants to be remembered for her smile after eight medals in four Games… and hopes to continue to motivate others by staying within the swim formation
Ellie Simmonds never imagined it would end this way — in tears in the back aisles of the Tokyo pool, with her coaches chasing a disqualification to ensure her fifth place finish.
That’s the brutal nature of sport when the competition catches up with it. In the pool on Thursday night, there was ample evidence of nations, such as Ukraine and Hungary, having done so.
The disqualification, for the 26-year-old who failed to touch the wall after the second turn in the 400-meter freestyle, was overturned, although that didn’t obscure her struggle to maintain the levels she reached as one of the symbols of the breakthrough. in London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Ellie Simmonds announced her retirement from the Tokyo Paralympic Games on Thursday
Simmonds (right) won her first Paralympic gold medals at the Beijing Games way back in 2008
Simmonds was one of the symbols of the breakthrough of the London 2012 Paralympic Games
She was 23 seconds behind China’s Yuyan Jiangm who took gold. Maisie Summers-Newton, who has taken over the British mantle from Simmonds, finished four seconds ahead of her and failed to medal.
Simmonds said in the aftermath that she wanted to be remembered for “the smile,” such as: “Ellie Simmonds, the one everyone remembers in London 2012.”
That much is certain. Numerous of the current generation describe how they watch the London Games and take inspiration from them.
“Even in the warm-up pools, when I’m swimming — and I didn’t swim as well as I thought I could in these finals — they still tell me I’ve still inspired so many people,” she reflected. ‘And that touches me. It makes me so happy.
“Even people who aren’t even British remember me. In the village I traded pin badges – I collect them for my aunt – and they say “my god you’re Ellie from London 2012” and that’s great.
“2012 has been so many years now, so it’s beautiful. But in the end I’m just an athlete, striving to be on that podium.”
She is still ‘moved’ that she has inspired so many Paralympians with her London 2012 shows
That process of striving is no less intense and the psychological challenge has grown. In London, she was a 17-year-old who had not yet fully broken through into the public consciousness.
“I didn’t feel the pressure then,” she said. “While now, much older, I feel those expectations, to the extent that I’m okay in training, but panic in games and do stupid things.
“The whole nation thinks I should be winning, winning, winning all the time. That’s a lot to take on my shoulders.’
She expressed the hope that there could be a role in swimming set-up, coaching or just motivating others as she has Summers-Newton in Tokyo this summer.
Maisie Summers-Newton has taken over the British mantle from Simmonds and has won two golds in Tokyo
Simmonds was a flag bearer for Great Britain in Tokyo – the first woman to do so since 2000
“Like Tanni Grey-Thompson is one of the greats of the Paralympics and she still inspires and creates that movement,” Simmonds said.
“If I can follow in her footsteps and be like her, it would be an honor. Coaching swimming would certainly be great.’
She has done more than enough to justify the same credit our most influential athletes bestowed upon them. She should be Dame Ellie.
But memories of her time in the arena, with eight medals at four Paralympic Games, will always mean the most.
“I’ve made my dreams come true,” she said. “I was part of that Paralympic movement. That would have made my nine-year-old self so happy.’