Four-time Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds hopes that this year’s games in Rio can emulate the legacy of London 2012.
The 21-year-old, who relocated to Manchester for training in 2015, believes that Britain’s event four years ago has lifted the profile of disability sport.
And Simmonds, who will swim in her third Games, also suggests that disabled non-athletes have benefitted from the event.
“Even in 2008 people always got confused, they thought it was the Special Olympics,” Simmonds told MM.
“Now you go on the streets and say: ‘Do you know what the Paralympics is?’ and they do, they’re more aware of certain athletes like David Weir, Sarah Storey, Jonnie Peacock.
“Kids have knowledge that we are just people. We may be a bit different, we may look different or act a bit differently, but there is less of a stare.”
Despite recent legislation preventing discrimination towards disabled people in Brazil, several reports claim that accessibility is still an issue.
Nevertheless, Simmonds is confident that the country will embrace the Paralympic Games, and hopes the rest of the world will follow their lead.
“The public in Brazil are aware of Paralympic sport,” she added.
“You see [athletes] and they have good sponsorship from famous companies in Brazil, so that shows that there is that positivity of Paralympic sport.
“There are still countries such as America that are behind on us. There was no coverage of the Paralympics in London from America.”
Simmonds was only 13 when she went to the Paralympics in Beijing in 2008 as the youngest member of Team GB, winning gold in the S6 100m and 400m freestyle.
And she admitted it was easier to deal with the pressure when she was younger.
“I think at the age of 13 I didn’t really feel anything. When you’re so young, you’re just in a bit of a daze. It wasn’t until a bit later, in London for example, that I really started to feel the pressure.
“I was really nervous.”
Now 21, Simmonds believes her tender age gave her a mental advantage in Beijing which has dissipated somewhat as she has matured.
“Yes, I think it did [give me an advantage]. I wish I had that head now!
“You feel a lot of things when you get older. It’s like life in general – you’re more aware of what’s going on in the world outside.”
Images courtesy of Adidas via YouTube, with thanks.