When we’re in the pool, it’s war
29th August 2011 - The Guardian
After coming from nowhere to take gold in 2008, Paralympic poster girl Ellie Simmonds will be the one to beat in London.
Swimmer Ellie Simmonds has achieved an absurd amount in her 16 years: she has won eight gold medals, including two at the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008 when she was 13; won BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year; and in 2009 was the youngest person ever to be awarded the MBE.
Now there'll be other swimmers coming from nowhere to challenge me – my enemies.
The London Games are very much on her mind, but she has a more immediate concern – her GCSE results.
"Swimming had to take a bit of a back seat so I could focus on my exams," she said, "because I really want to have a good future and do well.
"Mentally I wasn't in the right place for the Europeans. I was OK, but not perfection." Simmonds sets herself extremely high standards.
What really irked her at the European championships was that she only got silver, behind arch-rival Mirjam de Koning-Pepper of the Netherlands, in the 100m freestyle, an event in which Simmonds had been unbeaten since Beijing.
In 2008, she came from nowhere to take gold. This time, she will be expected to win. Does that make it harder?
"There'll be a lot more pressure on me," she said, "and on the whole team. Going into Beijing I'd only been to one major competition, which was when I was 12. No one had heard of me. Now there'll be other swimmers coming from nowhere to challenge me – my enemies."
"That's what I call them. They're nice people and I get on well with them, but when we're in the pool, it's war."