Great Britain swimming legend Ellie Simmonds to hang up Paralympic goggles after Tokyo 2020

The ParalympicsGB swimmer burst onto the scene at Beijing 2008 aged 13 before then cementing her status as a Paralympic superstar at her home games in London 2012. 

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Great Britain’s Ellie Simmonds has revealed that the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be last.

The 26-year-old para swimmer, who boasts eight Paralympic medals including five golds, made her retirement announcement after she was disqualified from the women’s 400m freestyle S6 final.

Speaking to UK broadcaster Channel 4 after her final race in Japan, an emotional Simmonds shared the news:

“I think this [Tokyo 2020] is going to be my last.”

“As a nine-year-old watching Athens 2004, to think as kid then I would not just go to one Games but to four Games, go to a home Paralympics, come away with eight Paralympic medals and being part of that Paralympic movement as well.”

“So, I think for me this is going to be my last.”

The swim star has had mixed fortunes in Japan. Her best finish at the Games was fourth in the women’s 100m breaststroke S6.

However, Britain’s Tokyo 2020 co-flag bearer was keen to insist that while she didn't medal, she nonetheless relished her fourth Paralympic appearance:

“I am leaving it at the right time. I love it. I’ve had a wonderful competition and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

“There’s no words to describe it. I love it. I love the Paralympics.”

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Ellie Simmonds: launching Britain’s great Paralympic swimming dynasty

Influence is not always measurable.

Knowing who your story has touched and what impact you might have on others cannot, like a medal collection, always be quantified.

It is to Simmonds’ credit that her successors have cited her after they have ripped through the waters of the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.

Maisie Summers-Newton, heir apparent to Simmonds, bested the veteran to take gold in the women’s 200m medley SM6.

After the race, the 19-year-old heaped praise on her compatriot:

“It’s pretty cool to beat your idol. She’s such an amazing swimmer and she’s done so much for para-sport.”

“I watched her in London and that was just insane. I think I first met her fully in 2013. I went to watch her at the nationals, and I was just inspired.”

Years after inspiring her to take the plunge the two are now close team-mates.

Even out of the pool Summers-Newton admits that Simmonds’ words, as well as her actions, have a profound impact on her.

Earlier in the heats of the women’s 200m medley, Yelzaveta Mereshko of Ukraine took the young Briton’s world record, unsettling her ahead of the final.

Simmonds, however, urged her protégé not to be deterred:

“When I saw my record go, Ellie said straight away – you can get it back, and that definitely helped.”

Reflecting on the impact of sporting legacy during her post-race announcement Simmonds beamed:

“It’s been an amazing part to play inspiring those next generations. I’m honoured.”

“It makes me emotional to think like Maisie, Ellie [Robinson] all those girls and guys who got inspired by me watching me at London 2012 and now they’re inspiring that next generation” - Ellie Simmonds

Ellie Simmonds’ Paralympic journey

Born with Achondroplasia, a genetic disorder associated with dwarfism, Ellie Simmonds first began swimming at the age of five.

She rose to prominence at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, where she won two gold medals as the youngest member of the GB team.

At London 2012 Simmonds then went stratospheric.

Under the pressure of her poster-girl status the then 17-year-old won the hearts of the British public as she clinched four medals in the pool including two golds, one silver and bronze. Her celebratory tears of joy became iconic.

On her third Paralympic outing in Rio, the Briton continued her run of success as she took the Paralympic title in the women’s 200m individual medley SM6 and scooped up a bronze in the women’s 400m freestyle S6.

Her silverware in Brazil bumped her career Paralympic medal tally to an impressive eight, pairing nicely with her 17 World Para Swimming Championship medals.

After her exploits at Rio 2016, Simmonds made the decision to take a break from swimming, her third Games had not been her favourite and she struggled with her surrounding environment.

During her year out in 2017 Simmonds travelled the world, setting herself free from the routine and rigour of swimming before then settling in to return to Tokyo 2020 for one last time.