Super Simmonds exits with the full set

A determined and dedicated swimmer, Britain's golden girl has had a Games to remember

The Aquatics Centre

She marched on, her red British kit-bag bouncing on her back, one earpiece in listening to Eminem, the other dangling so she could savour for one last time the waves of support rumbling towards her from the stands of the Aquatics Centre. But Ellie Simmonds was unable to deliver one more gold medal in her final swim of the Paralympics, forced instead to settle for 100m freestyle silver, one and a half seconds adrift of her new rival in the pool, the American Victoria Arlen.

It was the American's first Paralympic gold medal and arrived via a world record – Simmonds herself touched in a personal best time. It leaves Simmonds with what she described as the full set, two gold, a silver and a bronze as well as having broken four world records of her own. It is a more than satisfactory return by any standards; aged 17 she has four Paralympic gold medals to her name.

The competition, eight races in eight days, has taken its toll. There was pressure and expectation, as there would be for any defending champion. Ahead of the Games she claimed to be enjoying it, giggling about the 60ft billboard from which her likeness surveys the Olympic Park. But there have been hints she was finding it tough. "I'm running on adrenalin really," she said.

For the last six years Simmonds has clambered out of the Wales National pool in Swansea at Saturday lunch time, the last of her nine weekly two-hour training sessions, and begun the 160-mile journey home. Or rather to the family home. Simmonds lives in Wales with her mother, Val. In Walsall her father, Steve, lives with her brother and three sisters and every weekend Simmonds returns for a morsel of family life. Then it is back to her second home; Monday morning it all begins again, swimming and in between studying for three A-levels.

That sums up Simmonds. She is a schoolgirl on the one hand, on the other an experienced professional sportswoman; the two sit snugly side by side and she appears to have little problem in exchanging one for the other. She is also a curious mix of emotions. Like Rebecca Adlington, she is a bundle of nerves ahead of a race, utterly nerveless in the water and then, the moment she slaps the board to stop the clock, a bundle of emotion. Last night there were no tears and she was unusually calm afterwards, as if there was an element of relief it is all over.

Arlen controlled the race to end her first Games on a high, leading from the start – where she has the advantage over Simmonds – and then holding off the Briton's riposte. The styles are contrasting, Arlen glides, Simmonds attacks the water, and their stories are different too.

Arlen only returned to the pool last year and the pair had never raced before last Saturday. Over the summer Simmonds was restricted to curious glances over the Atlantic as this fellow 17-year-old came out of nowhere to snatch away her world records in the 400m and the 100m.

The two share a passion for swimming. With Simmonds it has always been there, for Arlen it had to be rediscovered. Six years ago Arlen was diagnosed with a neurological disorder, Transverse Myelitis, which inflames the spinal cord. The effect was to leave her in a vegetative state for two years.

"It was really touch and go, my parents were told several times I would not live, and if I did I would be a vegetable, but I was determined to live," said Arlen. "I just wanted to talk again, to eat again, to use my arms again. It is 18 months since I first moved in the water, I was put in a lifejacket and could barely use my arms, and now I am here. It makes us all cry when we think about what's happened. I came close to losing my life so whatever happened here is a blessing to complete the journey."

When she recovered she no longer had the use of her legs and the desire to swim had gone. She was afraid to get back in the water. But she did and the results have been spectacular. There was one more obstacle for her to overcome before taking on Simmonds. On her arrival in London, the International Paralympic Committee decided she was not eligible to swim in the S6 class, threatening to end her Games before they had even begun. The US team appealed and the decision was reversed, although she remains under observation and may yet find herself re-assigned come Rio 2016.

If she is it would disappoint Simmonds. "It's going to be a great rivalry, hopefully she'll go for Rio and I'll go for Rio," said Simmonds. "She is pushing me to the best of my abilities."

There was a further bronze for Britain last night, from Harriet Lee in the SB9 100m breaststroke.

Sport
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone