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Golden girl in Paralympic pool

(Xinhua)

09:10, September 06, 2012

LONDON, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- Boasting two gold medals and a new world record at the London Paralympics, the 17-year-old British swimmer Eleanor Simmonds, only 1.23m tall, has long held the limelight in the Aquatics Center.

Although finishing third in the women's 50m freestyle-S6 here on Tuesday, Simmonds, who had taken the gold medals of the women's 400m freestyle-S6 and women's 200m individual medley-SM6 in a new world record time, still has the chance to make a gold hat-trick in her last event of women's 100m freestyle-S6.

After winning the women's 200m final on Monday, Simmonds, an A-level student, was given a standing ovation during the medal ceremony. She said,"I was just trying to go as fast as I can and to do a personal best. I'm just so chuffed. Two golds now and I'm going to enjoy it."

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) director of communications Craig Spence said, "Simmonds is probably one of the most recognizable Paralympians. When I first joined the IPC, Phil Craven asked me to name one Paralympian and I could only name Tanni Grey-Thompson. It's important that the new generation of Paralympians comes through."

Simmonds had been the youngest-ever Paralympian to win two golds in Beijing 2008 when she was 13 years old. Her legend is going on in London 2012.

Born with achondroplasia (dwarfism), Simmonds started to swim at the age of five. British Paralympic swimmer Nyree Lewis was the most influential person in her career.

"I was watching my hero, Nyree Lewis, winning the gold medal in the 100m backstroke at the Athens Paralympics, and I just told myself that I would like to do that," said Simmonds.

She now lives part time in Swansea and trains for two hours at a time in nine training sessions per week at the Wales National Pool. Before moving to Swansea, she swam for Boldmere Swimming Club in Sutton Coldfield, under head coach Ashley Cox and several other coaches. In 2008, following her success in Beijing she was made a life member of the club. To this date she still maintains her links with Boldmere Swimming Club, swimming at the annual Club Championships and occasionally attending training sessions when she returns from Swansea.

She also took part in All Star Family Fortunes which was broadcast on Nov. 29, 2009, which made her the youngest team captain they ever had on the show. She played the game with her aunt, trainer, cousin and brother and won 1,520 pounds for her chosen charity.

At the Beijing Paralympics, Simmonds competed in the 50m, 100m and 400m freestyle, 50m butterfly, and 200m individual medley. She won gold medals in the 100m and 400m freestyle events. She won the 2008 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award.

In addition, Simmonds has won 10 World Championship titles.

Simmonds was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2009 New Year Honors. At 14 years old, she became the youngest person ever to have received this honor. She received the honor from Queen Elizabeth II on Feb. 18.

In 2011, Simmonds won the award for 'Best British Sporting Performance for an Athlete with Disability' at the Jaguar Academy of Sport Annual Awards.

In March 2012, in the 200m individual medley, she became the first swimmer to break a world record at London's Aquatics Center.
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