British Paralympic champion reveals she can’t watch Rio success because of ‘negative’ experience

British Paralympic champion reveals she can’t watch Rio success because of ‘negative’ experience

Five-time Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds has opened up about her experience at the 2016 Rio Games that led to her taking a year out from swimming.

Simmonds claimed her fifth gold at her third Paralympic Games four years ago as she defended the 200m individual medley title she won at London 2012.

But she has revealed her memories of the event are so tainted that she will not watch her success back.

Simmonds in action in Rio (Andrew Matthews, PA)
Simmonds in action in Rio (Andrew Matthews, PA)

An independent investigation in 2017 found that a “climate of fear” existed in the British Para-swimming team and “abusive and derogatory language” was used by a senior coach towards athletes.

And in an interview with the Guardian, Simmonds said: “I didn’t enjoy Rio. My team-mates were great but some of the staff made it a really negative place.

“It’s hard when you go to an environment and you don’t want to be there. That’s why I had a year out afterwards because I needed to get away from swimming.

“I spoke to my parents and my agent a year before Rio. I was like: ‘I don’t want to do this. I want to get away.’ They said: ‘Just grit your teeth for a year. Then you can have your break. And if you want to retire, you can retire then.’ I was in tears. I just hated it.

On behalf of British Swimming I want to apologise to the British Para-Swimming athletes and their families who have faced unacceptable behaviours and comments. I have written to those athletes and their families who I understand have been affected by this.

“I don’t watch my Rio races back. I’ll look at my London 2012 races a lot. But not Rio.

“It was the staff. There were some not very nice people in the team.”

Following the investigation, British Swimming apologised to the athletes.

Its chairman Maurice Watkins said: “On behalf of British Swimming I want to apologise to the British Para-Swimming  athletes and their families who have faced unacceptable behaviours and comments. I have written to those athletes and their families who I understand have been affected by this.”

Simmonds has since been reunited with former coach Billy Pye and has her sights set on more Paralympic glory in Tokyo later this year.

“One-to-one training with Billy is really good because he knows me so well,” she added.

“I love what I do now and I’ve got a great team around me. I’m lucky I’ve been able to take control, as an older athlete, and pick who I work with.

“I just want to go to Tokyo now. I’ve got to nail it in the trials because going to a fourth Games will be special.”

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