“I love having the competition. That's what you want from sport, competing against the best.
Great Britain’s four-time Paralympic gold medallist Eleanor Simmonds is heading into her third Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, believing that she will face her toughest ever field.
Simmonds, still only 21-years-old but already one of the most established names in the sport, will defend two titles in the 400m freestyle S6 and 200 individual medley SM6.
“As a movement, Paralympic sport is growing and improving year on year and I can confidently say, the talent in swimming has never been so high,” she said.
Like many of the athletes who will be competing in Rio, whether their first, third or fifth Games, Simmonds is happy to be competing. “I can't wait. The Paralympics is the reason we get up and train every day. Four years – well, more really – of incredibly tough training come down to these moments.”
That training consists of nine sessions in the pool per week, with supplementary gym and core sessions. “Often I'll get to the pool early in the morning and not leave again until the evening. It's tough work, but definitely worth it.”
Since the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, Simmonds has held the World and Paralympic titles for the 400m freestyle. But at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, Ukraine's Yelyzaveta Mereshko beat Simmonds in a thrilling final, at her first international competition.
Consequently, all eyes will be on Simmonds and Mereshko going into the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, curious to see if Simmonds can retain her Paralympic title.
“While Yelyzaveta Mereshko will no doubt be highlighted as someone I'll be competing closely against, I know there'll be plenty of others as well. It's going to be incredibly tough.”
“I love having the competition. That's what you want from sport, competing against the best. Whoever comes out on top in Rio, whether one of us, or someone else, will have had to work so hard just to get there, they'll deserve it.”
She made her Paralympic Games debut as a thirteen-year-old at Beijing 2008, winning two gold medals in the pool in the bubble-effect ‘Watercube’ venue.
Since then, Simmonds’ natural enthusiasm, chattiness and candour has made her a popular member of the ParalympicsGB team - an honour that became far more literal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games when a giant, building-sized photo of her was displayed overlooking the Olympic Park.
Now a veteran of the Games, she has down-to-earth aims for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games as a result of her previous experiences.
“I just want to go out and have no regrets. And of course, have fun as well! I'm very fortunate to be taking part in my third Games and I've learnt that the key is to enjoy and absorb as much as possible.”
“The Olympic and Paralympic Games are incredible competitions and equally fantastic opportunities for athletes and it'd be remiss of us as competitors not to take in as much as we possibly can. I also want to win, of course...”
“I feel good and really excited. London 2012 was simply amazing, so if Rio comes even half as close as that, I'll be over the moon. And I'm sure it will!”
A proud representative of her country, Simmonds is particularly keen to perform well for her country. “I still get the same excitement and buzz from knowing I'll be competing for my country as I always have. It's a hard feeling to describe. When I see that GB [Great Britain] flag, I'm just so desperate to do myself and my country proud. It's a feeling I'll never get over.”
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs)
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.
Visa International is the exclusive payment card and the official payment system for the Paralympic Games.