'Ellie Simmonds was inspirational. Now it's my turn to win gold'
Team GB's swimmers have high hopes of success in London
Ellie Simmonds is still only 17, but she is already a veteran when it comes to winning gold medals. Representing Team GB in Beijing four years ago, as the youngest team member, she eventually came home with two Paralympic swimming golds and a place in the hearts of the nation's sports fans.
She also inspired Amy Marren, who celebrated her 14th birthday only a week ago, to take up the sport at the age of 10. Now Amy has been given the chance to swim alongside her heroine in London.
Amy, who was born without a right hand, told reporters at a press event in Manchester: "I only got into swimming when I watched Ellie winning a double gold in Beijing. I turned around to my mum and said, 'That's what I want to do'.
"I did not even expect to qualify to tell the truth. I am still a little starstruck around Ellie and feel as inspired by her as I was when I was cheering her on in Beijing."
The road to qualifying had been hard, she added. "My family has been amazing. My 10-year-old sister has had to miss so many parties through coming to watch me... She swims as well and is going to be so much faster than me when she's older. She also wants to take it as far as she can."
All of the Team GB swimmers The Independent spoke to yesterday had stories to tell. Third-time Paralympian Claire Cashmore revealed how a childhood snub while her family was living in Dubai had led to her becoming "a water baby".
She said: "I moved to Dubai when I was five. Before that I was really nervous of swimming. But when I was nine another little girl told me I couldn't swim – and I was determined to prove her wrong.
"It is important people are exposed to someone with a disability and realise it's normal, because there are so many opportunities for disabled people out there."
She said she was even more thrilled to be competing in front of a home crowd. "When I was in Beijing hearing the Chinese cheer, I thought, 'This would be great if it was in London'. So now it is like a dream come true. What drives me is that feeling of standing on the podium, wearing the GB tracksuit and seeing that flag rising.
"I have been dreaming of it for I don't know how many years and it is going to be so exciting – although my lifetime goal is still to be a Blue Peter presenter."
Although the Paralympians were thrilled with Team GB's achievements in the Olympics, for Ellie Simmonds the most important part of London 2012 is still to come. "I just can't wait to walk out with all the crowd behind me. I remember when the Chinese athletes got a massive roar it gave me a buzz as if they were shouting to me.
"To have the experience of that, to know what it's like, and be up for it is definitely going to give me a bit of an advantage."
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