Challis creates big splash at British Nationals

‘I was so happy to get the British records’ 04 Dec 2019
THE SMILE SAYS IT ALL: Record-breaking teenager Ellie Challis was presented at the National Championships with Swim England’s Para-Swimming Talent Athlete of the Year award.
Ⓒ Activity Alliance
By Mary Barber | For World Para Swimming

Ellie Challis topped off a stellar year with more record-breaking wins at the National Para Swimming Championships in Manchester at the weekend.

The 15-year-old broke the British record in the S3 50m and 100m freestyle heats. She was cheered on to times of 1.00.01 and 2.07.30, respectively.

The World Championship bronze medallist joined other leading British para-swimmers at the event who all hoped to do well ahead of next year’s World Para Swimming Series, the European Para-Swimming Open Championships and the Paralympics in Tokyo.

They included Bethany Firth, Reece Dunn, Maisie Summers-Newton, Louise Fiddes, Jordan Catchpole and Eleanor Simmonds. Seven-times World Para Swimming Champion Alice Tai was due to compete but pulled out with an elbow injury.

“I was so happy to get the British records. I had hoped for the 100 free but the 50 was a surprise. They round off such a year for me. Last December I was just getting started but I have improved so much since then. I am getting a bit older and I know how to swim my own race now whereas this time last year I was just getting in and swimming,” said a delighted Challis.

“I have also had great support from Swim England and British Para-Swimming and from my dad, who takes me everywhere.”

The schoolgirl, who lost all four limbs to meningitis as a baby, broke the World record in the 50m SB2 breaststroke and two European records at the British Para-Swimming International in April. She also picked up a bronze medal at the World Para Swimming Championships in September.

Her dream now is to represent Great Britain at Tokyo 2020.  “I would love to go to the Paralympics but it depends on how well I do at the trials.”

More than 230 para-swimmers competed in the Championships, which was organised by Activity Alliance in partnership with British Para-Swimming.

Dunn, 24, also topped a stand-out year with a British record in the S14 100m backstroke at the long course event. He touched the wall at 59.98 just ahead of friend and GB teammate Catchpole, 20, at 1.00.96.

The Plymouth Leander swimmer admitted he was surprised to break the record: “It is not my main event but it went alright. I just did it to have a bit of fun with Jordan. I was hoping that it would push him along so that we would have a bit more banter, especially going into Tokyo next year.”

He also won the 100m freestyle in 52.95 and 200m individual medley in 2.18.96 at the Manchester Aquatics Centre, despite being injured. He said. “I was nursing a few injuries and trying to get some motivation back after the World Championships, so I’m pleased.”

Dunn made his debut appearance for GB at the World Championships in London. His three golds, a silver and three World records in the S14 class helped Team GB to second place in the medals table, behind Italy.

“I was super-excited to be in the team for the Worlds and then get the records. I hope to now make the Paralympic team,” he said.
Like Dunn, Firth, 23, who was the most decorated Paralympics GB athlete at Rio 2016, also has her eyes set on Tokyo.

The Newcastle swimmer, from Northern Ireland, also did well at the Worlds, winning two golds and two silvers. She recorded the fastest time at the Nationals for S14 100m freestyle in 58.80 ahead of Fiddes on 1.01.86, as well as for the S14 100m backstroke on 2.24.25. Afterwards she said: “I am over the moon. I was really happy about my backstroke and the Worlds, too, so I am feeling positive about going into the Tokyo 2020 season.”