Simmonds wins Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration

27 Nov 2021

Ellie Simmonds is looking forward to watching the current crop of top British para-swimmers inspire Paralympians of the future after seeing her own legacy in the sport recognised at The Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards.

Simmonds, who won five Paralympic and nine World Championship titles across a glittering career, was awarded the Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration at Thursday night's virtual ceremony, marking an influential career that saw the Walsall-born athlete become a role model for a host of para-swimmers and competitors in other sports of all abilities. 

Ellie's recent retirement came on the back of her competing at a fourth Paralympic Games - and she was also one of two flagbearers for ParalympicsGB at Tokyo 2020. At that Games, Britain's para-swimmers clinched 26 medals, including a pair of golds for Maisie Summers-Newton - including in the SM6 200m Individual Medley category that was won by Simmonds at London 2012 and Rio 2016 - and a trio of titles for Reece Dunn.

And when speaking about receiving the Helen Rollason Award, 10-time European champion Simmonds namechecked Maisie and Reece as a couple of stars who can inspire others to carry the flame into the future. 

"I'm blown away by this award! As an athlete, you don't really think about the awards you get, you're just doing it," said Ellie.

"Now for me, with hanging up my goggles and retiring, you close that door on the sport in a sense and you're thinking about the next chapter. 

"I remember I got inspired watching the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, as an eight or nine-year-old, sitting on the sofa and watching Nyree Lewis get a gold medal. That's when my dreams were set, to go to a Paralympics and win a gold medal - and to think that four years later, I was on the team with Nyree in Beijing and got a gold medal myself, that's amazing.

"It's amazing what you can do to inspire people, but to actually be in that position where you can inspire people, I think it's hard to comprehend. The honour that I've had to be a part of the Paralympic movment, to showcase what the Paralympics are all about and how incredible the Paralympics is, it's a huge honour.

"It's also a huge honour to inspire that next generation, and now I'm hanging up the goggles and moving on, I know the likes of Maisie Summers-Newton and Reece Dunn are carrying that forward, they're going to smash it in Paris and the future, and inspire the next generation too."

Alice Dearing (Changemaker Award), Bethany Firth (Disability Sportswoman of the Year) and Maisie Summers-Newton (Young Sportswoman of the Year) were all shortlisted for awards on the night, as further recognition of an incredible year for women across British Swimming, both in and out of the water. 

Click HERE to read the full list of award winners.