They say that good things come in small packages and, after meeting Ellie Simmonds, it’s clearly true!
Ellie is a Paralympic swimmer and World Champion. At just 15 years old, she can say she has won two gold medals, broken numerous world records, won the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year and met the Queen - and she’s only in her fourth year of secondary school.
At the 2008 Paralympics games in Beijing, Ellie broke the 100m and 400m women’s freestyle at the tender age of 13 - an amazing achievement, we’re sure you’ll agree!
Recently, we were lucky enough to catch up with Ellie at our national pool in Swansea - the centre of her world.
Ellie trains at the 50m pool nine times a week for two hours at a time, yet she still finds time for school and friends. Originally from Walsall, she now lives in Swansea with her mum for training purposes and travels to Walsall at the weekend.
We asked her how she felt about the distance between Swansea and her family. She said: "It’s just my mum and I in the week and the routine is that we travel home on the weekend. It’s a three-hour trip which is hard but it’s worth it."
It’s hard to imagine how a 15-year old can handle such a busy life while still studying for her GCSEs, swimming nine times a week and making time for a social life. But as Ellie explains, she "juggles" everything.
She also confesses to taking time out to watch Big Brother: "I know it’s really bad to admit but I used to be addicted to it, I used to watch it all the time!". We all laughed about it and decided her addiction is a normal teenage thing!
Ellie was awarded an MBE in the 2009 New Year’s Honours list, becoming the youngest person to have ever received one.
"It was very exciting" she explained. "At first I received a letter and was only allowed to tell two people - my mum and dad. It was hard because it’s the sort of thing you want to tell everyone!"
Ellie’s rise to public awareness has been somewhat meteoric following her astounding success at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. She describes her wins as overwhelming: "the buzz you get is amazing
Ellie went on to tell us that she keeps her medals "in a box somewhere" and explained how she is looking forward to the London 2012: "Yes, I’m very excited about London 2012," she said, "and if the British crowd respond to Team GB like the Chinese responded to their team, the buzz will be amazing."
The BBC award is something Ellie is obviously very proud of. She won the BBC Young Sports Personality Award in 2008, beating another young sporting sensation, Tom Daley.
Ellie said "winning it was great, it was really shocking actually".
She told us about her excitement the night she won, about meeting Lewis Hamilton and the glitz and glamour of the award.
"It’s really nice getting all dressed up with the make-up and fancy hair and stuff," she said.
Despite being a record-breaking gold medallist Ellie Simmonds is refreshingly down to earth and humble.
We are sure she’ll go on to do even greater things in the future because as we said, good things come in small packages!
You can find out more about this year’s BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2010 website
By Megan, Macsen, Elin and Sarah
From Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr and Gymraeg Bryn Tawe, Swansea
October 11, 2010