Paralympic legend Simmonds confirms retirement

9 Sep 2021

Five-time Paralympic champion and British Para-Swimming legend Ellie Simmonds has announced her retirement from competition following Tokyo 2020. 

Simmonds has become a household name in British sport during a glittering 15-year career, which included four Paralympic Games and a quintet of titles on the sport's biggest stage. 

After breaking on to the scene and stealing the nation's heart with two golds - in the Women's S6 100m and 400m Freestyle - at the age of only 13 at Beijing 2008, the Walsall-born athlete more than lived up to her billing as one of the faces of the London 2012 Paralympics, defending her S6 400m Freestyle crown and adding the SM6 200m Individual Medley gold to her ever-growing list. There was also S6 100m Freestyle silver and 50m bronze at the London Aquatics Centre. 

Two more medals, including a second SM6 200m Individual Medley title, followed at Rio 2016, before Simmonds rounded out her Paralympic career with finals appearances in three events at Tokyo 2020, a Games that also saw her given the honour of carrying the Union flag at the Opening Ceremony.

Simmonds' legacy was there for all to see in Tokyo, with athletes like Maisie Summers-Newton - the successor to that 200m IM crown - speaking about the 26-year-old as being their inspiration when they first got into the sport. 

A tally of nine World Para Swimming Championship and 10 European golds is further proof of Simmonds' legendary status in aquatic sport, as is the continuing growth of para-sport's profile in the aftermath of London 2012. 

Ellie Simmonds
Ellie with her London 2012 medals

By her own admission, Ellie's time in the pool is by no means over - even if her time at the elite end is drawing to a close.

"I’ve heard it said by others that you know when it is time to call it a day, and having given a lot of thought to it, I know that now is the right time for me," she said.

"Since my first international competition in 2006 aged 12 to the Tokyo Paralympics, competing for Great Britain has been the greatest honour of my life. From having my dreams come true as a wide-eyed and excited 13-year-old in Beijing and then competing in a home Games in 2012 through to now it’s hard to convey just how proud, honoured and grateful I am for everything, not least the wonderful support I’ve had.

"Being part of the Paralympic movement and able to contribute in some small way to the progression of para-sport means an enormous amount to me and is something that I shall continue to be involved in. Being a Paralympian has changed my life. I’ve made the best of friends, travelled the world and met the most amazing and inspirational of people – all while having the time of my life.

"I’ve got so many people to thank, but a special mention must go to all of my family and loved ones and my best friend and coach, Billy [Pye]. I also feel that I must shout out a big thank you to everyone who has been part of my career from my early days at Boldmere under Ashley, all the team in Swansea, those who supported me through my times in Loughborough and Manchester and finally Adam [Taylor] and everyone at Camden Swiss Cottage club and everyone at the London Aquatics Centre. Without all of them, none of this would have been possible.

Ellie Simmonds celebrates Rio 2016 [Getty]
Ellie Simmonds was a staple of British para-swimming teams for 15 years

"To all my GB teammates past, and those currently on the team, thank you! I can’t wait to watch you smash it in the future. I love swimming and I’ll still be found in the pool, but now I’ll be able to do it without the 04:30 alarm!"

Speaking of Ellie's announcement, Chris Furber, British Para-Swimming National Performance Director, said: "What Ellie has achieved, not just for the sport of para-swimming but for inclusion and diversity more generally, is truly game-changing. It has been an incredible honour for me to have got to work with her over the past eight years at British Para-Swimming. 

"The legacy she leaves behind is outstanding, both in terms of her incredible performances in the pool and also in the way she has challenged perceptions and inspired the entire nation. Ellie is a remarkable person. Everyone at British Para-Swimming wishes her all the best for the future."

British Swimming CEO Jack Buckner added: "I would just like to thank Ellie for everything she has done, not just for British Para-Swimming but for the whole Paralympic movement. She is a genuine legend of the sport, and she has been so influential in so many ways. Hers has been a wonderful a career. 

"I have no doubt that all the experience and skills she has developed throughout her career stand her in good stead for whatever lies ahead, and we look forward to seeing that and supporting wherever we can."