Watching the Paralymics this year has been inspiring. The dedication, tenacity and heart of the incredible athletes from around the world has touched the hearts of millions. To hear the stories of so many Paralympic athletes shows that the only limits are the ones you place upon yourself.
Over the last couple of weeks the world has seen archery experts with no arms, a woman who was left to die in a Russian orphanage with a hole in her spine collect two gold medals, a racing driver who had both of his legs amputated after a horrific accident on track rise to become a ‘gold-winning’ star of handcycling (even building his own cycle!) and a girl who suffer a broken neck earlier on in life playing one of the roughest sports on the planet.
But what has inspired me personally even more has been the amazing sense of sportsmanship at these games. Competitors seem genuinely happy for their triumphant rivals and the post-race congratulations are heart-felt with big beaming smiles. Yes, there have been a couple of moments that haven’t followed this theme, but on the whole the sense of camaraderie and kinship between the paralympians has been so touching to see.
What I personally hope is that people use the remarkable feats of the Paralympics to change their perspective on the concept of ‘disability’. People often judge people with an apparent disability as being less-capable…and yet in so many ways these paralympians are showing their ability to perform in ways that an average person could only dream of. They are living proof that with the right mindset, courage and heart, you can obliterate limits that are perceived by others.
For all the controversy surrounding him at these games, I feel strongly that Oscar Pistorius said it best; “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.”
So this weeks Fabulous Friday Female is the amazing Ellie Simmonds…as in only her second games ever, and at the age of only 17, she has already won two gold medals and a bronze, and a the time of writing her races were not over. In fact, one of her performances was so incredible that during the replay the announcer had to remind viewers that the footage had not been sped up!
Here is what she has to say about herself via her website:
Eleanor ‘Ellie’ Simmonds is a remarkable disability swimmer who shot to fame when she became the youngest Briton to win an Olympic or Paralympic medal at the age of 13 years and 9 months. This was the start of a string of firsts for Eleanor as she went on to become the youngest winner of the BBC Young Sports Personality of the year in 2008 and then the youngest recipient of the MBE at the age of 14 years, receiving her award from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
Since her meteoric rise into the public eye Ellie has impressed by continuing her dominance in her sport, winning 10 World titles, 5 European titles and setting 8 World Records in the 3 years since the 2008 Paralympic Games. She is now the most recognised Paralympic athlete in Great Britain and arguably the face of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Eleanor’s disability is classified as Achondroplasia dwarfism. She started swimming at the age of 5 and started competing against able bodied children at the age of 8. At 10 years old Ellie’s talent was spotted at a disability event and she was entered onto the British Swimming talent program and worked her way through to be selected as the youngest member of a senior British swimming squad for the 2006 IPC World Championships at 12 years and 3 weeks. Eleanor has completed her GCSEs and will be entering sixth-form in September studying world development, history and citizenship and as the countdown to London 2012 continues.
Since bursting onto the scene at the Beijing Paralympics, Eleanor Simmonds has captured both the hearts and the mind of the British public balancing her new found stardom with her school work and training. She has appeared on a number of TV shows including Family fortunes, Blue Peter and Basil Brush and has attended a number of celebrity events, her favourite to date being given a tour of the McClaren factory by then World Champion Lewis Hamilton.
Eleanor’s ever growing reputation as a world class athlete and her charming character make her the ideal individual to represent Paralympic sport ahead of what could be a very successful 2012 Paralympics for Eleanor.
Although still very young, Eleanor shows real maturity when it comes to speaking at corporate events and appearances. Always with a smile on her face, Eleanor’s bubbly and chatty personality makes perfect for visits to other schools and also the ideal ambassador for her sport.
But Ellie is not the only incredible female star of these Paralympics…so here is an honour role of the medal-winning Paralympic ladies from the UK this year:
- Danielle Brown
- Mel Clarke
- Stef Reid
- Libby Clegg
- Hannah Cockroft (and her chair Sally!)
- Gemma Prescott
- Claire Williams
- Beverley Jones
- Olivia Breen
- Bethany Woodward
- Katrina Hart
- Jenny McLoughlin
- Zoe Robinson
- Sarah Storey
- Karen Darke
- Aileen McGlynn
- Sophie Christiansen
- Natasha Baker
- Deborah Criddle
- Sophie Wells
- Zoe Newson
- Naomi Riches
- Lily Van Den Broecke
- Helena Lucas
- Alexandra Rickham
- Louise Watkin
- Susannah Rodgers
- Heather Frederiksen
- Jessica-Jane Applegate
- Stephanie Millward
- Hannah Russell
- Charlotte Henshaw
- Elizabeth Johnson
- Claire Cashmore
- Nyree Kindred
- Natalie Jones
So I would like to ask for you to join me today in honouring, acknowledging and celebrating Ellie and the other incredible women from team GB for showing that the only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.
As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female, then send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with 3 simple details:
- Who is your Fabulous Friday Female? (Her name and location in the world)
- Why is she a Fabulous Friday Female to YOU? (How do you know her? What does she do? In what way is she inspiring?)
- A photo or link to a picture of her online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)
So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women who inspire YOU.
…and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too!