THERE can be few competitors in any sport, never mind just in swimming, who have achieved as much at such a young age as Ellie Simmonds.
Still only 20, the woman from Walsall already has 13 IPC World Championship gold medals – and she will be in contention to win a few more when the event comes to Glasgow in July.
There will still be a lot of pressure on the GB athletes, but we can deal with itEllie Simmonds
Named yesterday in an 18-strong Great Britain team for the week-long championships at Tollcross, Simmonds will compete in the 50-metre, 100m and 400m freestyle as well as the 200m individual medley and the 100m breaststroke.
She won gold in three last time round in Montreal two years ago – the two longer freestyle races and the medley – and, worryingly for her rivals, believes she can get a lot better yet.
“It’s great to be representing my country in my fourth World Championships,” said Simmonds, who competes in the S6 disability category. “I’m happy, but there are still loads of things I can improve.
“It’s quite a busy schedule, but it’s a seven-day competition so I will get a few days off where I can relax. But it’s great to be able to do five events and have the variety – I think I’d be bored just doing one. They’re all totally different, so it’s exciting.”
Having won two golds at Beijing 2008 and multiple titles at her first two World Championships, Simmonds was the Paralympics’ equivalent of Jessica Ennis at London 2012 – a home favourite who was simply expected to win by many. She turned that pressure to her advantage and, three years on, is confident of doing so when she again competes in front of a largely British crowd at the pool where the Commonwealth Games were staged last summer.
“In London, people thought ‘She can easily get these gold medals’. That’s not the case. You’ve got to have such hard dedication at training, in the gym, in the support group around it.
Being able to cope with that, and walking out to the pool and having 17,500 cheer for you and knowing they expect you to get gold – that gives you great confidence after that, leading into majors like the World Championships, I can deal with the pressure.
“There will still be a lot of pressure on the GB athletes, but we know we can deal with that with what we achieved in London. We had the opportunity to race at this pool in the trials, so it has given us one step ahead of our main rivals.”
Although she is her own toughest critic at times, Simmonds ensures that she never loses sight of what inspired her to swim competitively in the first place – the sheer joy of ploughing through the water. “Mentally I know what I need for me to be the best athlete. But I’m still learning, I’m only 20, and there are loads of things I can improve on. I need to deal with bad races, I beat myself up a lot.
“I always try to enjoy it. That’s the main aim, because if you don’t have fun there’s no point in doing it. This is what I love to do, I love to swim, so I’m just going to go out there and enjoy myself. But there is still pressure on me to perform. I’m still reigning world champion and I need to go out there and defend my title.”
Two Scots are in the GB squad: Andrew Mullen of Ren 96 and Scott Quin from Warrender. The other members are James Crisp, Jonathan Fox, Thomas Hamer, Oliver Hynd, Sascha Kindred, Jack Thomas, Jessica-Jane Applegate, Claire Cashmore, Bethany Firth, Charlotte Henshaw, Tully Kearney, Susannah Rodgers, Hannah Russell, Stephanie Slater and Alice Tai.
• Watch the world’s best male and female para-swimmers in action at the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow from 13-19 July 2015. Tickets priced £10/£15 for Adults and free for Under-16s are on general sale and can be bought online via www.ticketmaster.co.uk/glasgow2015
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