Ellie Simmonds

Aldridge’s golden girl Ellie Simmonds is the darling of British swimming, but how does she get her kicks when she’s not in the pool? David Johns finds out…

Ellie Simmonds was particularly excited for a Monday morning. Normally she’d be starting out on her weekly routine of hours upon hours in the swimming pool. Relentless training. Tough yards put in to be the best. But today she was grabbing some all-too-brief time off, first to speak to me and then the bit she was really looking forward to – visiting a local primary school near her home in Aldridge, mixing and chatting with wide-eyed youngsters, and most importantly letting them see and touch a real Olympic gold medal! “After swimming, going to schools and meeting children is what I enjoy the most,” said Ellie. “They always give me such an amazing welcome. It’s hard to know who’s most excited, them or me! It’s really important to try and give something back and hopefully inspire children to want to achieve great things in their lives. They all want to see an Olympic gold medal, and I make sure they all get the chance to touch it too.”


In itself it’s not that unusual for sporting heroes to make the rounds of their local schools – but with Ellie you really do get the feeling that it means so much more. Afterall, she was just 13 when she won the first two of her Paralympic swimming golds in Beijing in 2008 – the youngest-ever British athlete to achieve such a goal – so she can really equate to what it feels like being an impressionable youngster filled with dreams. Two more golds followed at London 2012, cementing her place as one of the pin-up faces of British sport. She has also received both the MBE and OBE from the Queen. Yet incredibly the multi-world champion only turns 20 this month! “Leaving my teens is a major moment,” admitted Ellie. “But I’ve still got plenty of swimming left in me yet. I’m going to do two more Olympics in Rio and then Tokyo, and then who knows what I will decide to do when swimming finishes. I’m not too worried to be honest. I’m carrying on with my aim of doing an A-Level a year. As well as training in the pool and going to the gym, each week I go to college on Tuesdays and Thursdays where I’m studying psychology. I want to go to university in future, and I want to travel the world, even more than I do now with my swimming.” Big aims indeed, but who would bet against Ellie achieving all this and more? Ellie was born in Walsall, before growing up in neighbouring Aldridge where she attended the local school before moving to Swansea at the age of 11 with her mother so she could train with the GB squad at the city’s world class pool. Ellie, who has achondroplasia, started swimming as a five-year-old and her talent in the water was soon spotted, leading her to join Boldmere Swimming Club in Sutton Coldfield.


“I was very lucky, we had a pool at the bottom of the garden in our first house in Aldridge and I felt that swimming was really good for my body. I loved being able to move fast. Later, when mum and I moved to Swansea, dad stayed behind and held the fort in Aldridge but we’d make the three-hour drive back home every weekend to see him. It was tough being separated. I think that’s why I love being home now as much as I can.” These days Ellie lives in student accommodation in Loughborough where she trains. “My roommates are great and we get along really well, and being just an hour away from home means I can get back on Sundays to see all the family.” It also means that Ellie can indulge her ‘guilty pleasure’ – shopping! “I love shopping, especially in the Bull Ring, and especially for bags. I can’t resist them. I also love to get out and walk in the parks in and around Birmingham, and of course I love seeing all my family, mum, dad, my sisters and brother, too, of course. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I will always be a local girl.”


  • Shopping – for clothes and bags
  • Baking ¬– “I’m a Great British Bake Off fan”
  • Holidaying – in Australia, Sicily, Greece
  • Walking – in the parks around Brum
  • Chilling out – especially at the cinema
Cover photography by Graham Hughes