Swimming: Too young for bubbly, so it's fast food for gold star Ellie Simmonds

 

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The Independent Online

The morning after the night before and it was treat time for Ellie Simmonds. She may have two Games behind her and four Paralympic gold medals to her name but Simmonds is still only 17, which means no champagne celebration – unlike Sarah Storey, who stated happily when she finished her Games that it would be champagne all the way. Instead for Simmonds it meant a trip to a well-known provider of fast food.

The last few weeks have taken Simmonds on a rollercoaster of emotions and it has left her drained. Not only have there been the athletic demands of eight races in eight days, races in which the level of competition has risen on Beijing, there has also been a burden of considerable expectation for Britain's poster-girl.

There was no getting away from it for Simmonds. Step outside the Aquatics Centre and a giant poster of Simmonds peers down from the side of the neighbouring shopping centre. It has taken a toll and it was a weary teenager who made her way back to the athletes' village late on Saturday night clutching a silver to add to her two golds and a bronze.

"I think I'm running on adrenalin really," said Simmonds. Last night she planned to go to the closing ceremony, then it will be back home and a break from the pool – if not from school, where her three A-levels await, history, her favourite, citizenship and world development. The next major event is the World Championships next year, where she will renew a rivalry with the American Victoria Arlen, who has taken away her 100m freestyle title and world record, that is set to carry them through to 2016.

"I definitely want to go to Rio – I love Paralympics," said Simmonds. "I'll have a long break, chill with my family and friends. You have to take every year as it comes because you never know – injuries, what happens with my life, my school. But I'd love to go to Rio."

Arlen emerged out of the blue this summer as a serious rival. In the two freestyle events it finished one each, Simmonds taking the 400m and Arlen the 100m.

It was Arlen's first gold and marked a happy end to a remarkable recovery. In 2006, she was left in a vegetative state for two years after contracting a neurological disorder.

"My parents were told several times that 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."

Like Arlen, Simmonds will be 21 in Rio, with the possibility of another three Games to come. That raises the prospect of Simmonds one day catching, or even overtaking, Tanni Grey-Thompson's and Storey's total of 11 Paralympic gold medals. She took Storey's record as Britain's youngest gold medallist in Beijing but has no driving ambition to remove another from the swimmer-turned-cyclist.

"I'm not that type of person to look at Tanni or Sarah – what they have achieved is amazing," said Simmonds. "I set my own goals. I'm not really thinking I'm going to get 11 golds. I've got four – that's incredible with me."

GB ROLL OF HONOUR: Weekend medals

SATURDAY

Gold (1)

Cycling

Mixed Road Race T1-2: David Stone

Silver (1)

Swimming

Women's 100m Freestyle S6: Ellie Simmonds

Bronze (1)

Swimming

Women's 100m Breastroke SB9: Harriet Lee (above)

YESTERDAY

Gold (1)

Athletics

Men's Marathon T54: David Weir

Silver (1)

Athletics

Women's Marathon T54: Shelly Woods

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