Five-time Paralympic champion and nine-time world champion Para swimmer Ellie Simmonds has announced her retirement from competition following the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Aged just 13 at the time, Ellie Simmonds became the second youngest Paralympian in British history to win a medal of any colour when she competed at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.
The fact that she went on to win two gold medals in her first Games won her the hearts of her. Simmonds followed up her Beijing success with four gold, one silver and one bronze medal at the 2010 World Para Swimming Championships in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
Going into the London 2012 Paralympics she was one of the ‘poster girls’ of the Games and thanks to one of her sponsors, a giant image of Simmonds appeared down the side on one of the building’s facing the Olympic Park.
Despite the immense pressure on her, she duly delivered in front of her home crowd claiming two gold, one silver and one bronze medal. She also broke two world records.
Her success in the pool continued into 2013 with triple gold and one bronze at the Montreal 2013 World Para Swimming Championships in Canada.
Two more medals, including a second 200m individual medley SM6 title, followed at Rio 2016, before Simmonds rounded out her Paralympic career with finals appearances in three events at Tokyo 2020 – a Games that also saw her given the honour of being her country’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony.
Simmonds' legacy was also present in Tokyo with plenty of British athletes – such as Maisie Summers-Newton, her successor to the 200m individual medley SM6 crown - speaking about the 26-year-old as their inspiration when they first got into the sport.
Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist in Para powerliting, Olivia Broome was another British athlete to speak about the impact of watching Simmonds competing at Beijing 2008.
"It's a massive inspiration to see people like Ellie doing so well," said Broome.
"When I was a lot younger, there weren't many short stature athletes in the Paralympics and now to see more and more coming through, it's incredible."
Simmonds also has 10 gold medals in European Championships to her name, a further proof of her status as a British Para swimming legend.
By her own admission, Simmonds’ time in the pool is by no means over - even if her time at the elite end is drawing to a close.
"I’ve heard it said by others that you know when it is time to call it a day, and having given a lot of thought to it, I know that now is the right time for me," she said to British Swimming.
"Since my first international competition in 2006 aged 12 to the Tokyo Paralympics, competing for Great Britain has been the greatest honour of my life. From having my dreams come true as a wide-eyed and excited 13-year-old in Beijing and then competing in a home Games in 2012 through to now it’s hard to convey just how proud, honoured and grateful I am for everything, not least the wonderful support I’ve had.
"Being part of the Paralympic movement and able to contribute in some small way to the progression of Para sport means an enormous amount to me and is something that I shall continue to be involved in. Being a Paralympian has changed my life. I’ve made the best of friends, travelled the world and met the most amazing and inspirational of people – all while having the time of my life.”