Swansea swimmer Ellie Simmonds strikes gold with world record performance
ELLIE Simmonds produced a world-class swim when she needed it most to strike Paralympic gold with a world record performance that will live long in the memory.
Simmonds has dominated her sport since her double gold in Beijing, winning 15 consecutive major championship titles including ten world golds in the past three years.
However, the sudden rise to prominence of American teenager Victoria Arlen, who broke Simmonds’s world record earlier this year, made this win in the 400m freestyle anything but a foregone conclusion.
Arlen’s involvement had been controversial — she was ruled ineligible for the S6 category earlier in the week and then readmitted on appeal — a sideshow that Paralympic organisers must learn from ahead of Rio 2016.
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Simmonds insisted she wasn’t bothered by the furore but after 300m she was behind as Arlen set an impressive pace.
However, in the final two lengths the 17-year old exerted her authority, smashing her personal best by more than five seconds to clock 5:19.17 and claim her third career Paralympic gold — and at 17 surely more will follow.
“I felt like I had lot of pressure on me,” said the Swansea swimmer. “People expected me to get gold, which was not the case with Victoria on the scene. It was a five-second personal best and I knew it would be so tough with Victoria being in such good form.
“The last 50m hurt, it just killed me, and I was so pleased to touch, I knew I had no regrets and I am so pleased.
“I knew my race plan and it was to stick with her for the first 200m and then kick my legs for the last 200m and just go for it.
“The last 50m I literally gave it everything, when I touched I had no energy left. It was a tough race, one of the toughest races of my life and I knew had to dig deep.
“It means so much to win a gold at your home Paralympics and the pressure was quite hard to deal with.
“It’s just so emotional. The crowd were amazing, they got me to that wall first.”
Simmonds’s biggest pre-Games concern was that she would cry again in her post-race interviews, the teenager admitting she still can’t watch her Beijing performances because of the embarrassment of her emotions.
However, this was one target she didn’t achieve as the waterworks flowed.
“I’m really excited about the rest of this meet now because my form is great. But right now I’m pretty tired,” she added.
Arlen also paid tribute to Simmonds.
“Her and I were talking before the race and we said, ‘Let’s go do this’, but she had that little more at the end,” she said.
“The crowd were really rooting for her but that made me rise up. I’ve never been at a championship with an atmosphere like this.”
Lloyds TSB, proud supporter of ParalympicsGB and proud partner of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.