Tokyo 2020: Ellie Simmonds ‘cried’ after Games postponement – BBC News


Paralympic swimming champion Ellie Simmonds
Ellie Simmonds took a year out after the Rio Olympics before beginning her preparations for Tokyo

Five-time Paralympic swimming champion Ellie Simmonds has told BBC Sport that she was in tears when the Tokyo Games were delayed for 12 months.

The 25-year-old was preparing for what would be her fourth and final Games.

But she is now waiting to find out when she can return to training for a further 12 months before the 2021 showpiece.

“When it got announced that the Games were going to be postponed, I cried,” she said.

“It was really hard because you have a plan. I knew after Rio I would take a year out and then have three years to work towards Tokyo.

“As an athlete, I love routine and structure and when all that goes it was like ‘What am I going to look forward to now?’”

Simmonds, who is one of Britain’s best-known Paralympians, made her Games debut as a 13-year-old in Beijing in 2008, winning two gold medals.

After more success at London 2012 and Rio four years later, she took time out, saying that she ‘hated swimming’.

But refreshed, she returned to the pool in 2018 and was ready to compete in the trials for Tokyo earlier this month, before first they were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic and then the Games themselves delayed.

Having moved from her London base last month back to her family home near Walsall, she is enjoying a less pressured pace of life.

“I was going into the trials in good form, but swimming has taken a backseat,” she said.

“Now I have to wait a whole year and it is trying to change yourself mentally. This year will be different, and we don’t know when we will get back in the pool.

“It is hard knowing that now you have to train for another year, but I think the Games next year will be memorable and amazing to be part of.

“At the moment, I am enjoying living, being with my family, catching up with friends and putting safety before everything else.

“I’m also really enjoying having no pressure on me. With swimming, you have the pressure to perform and deliver and I hope when I get back to the pool that I try to realise that I don’t have pressure, it is about me enjoying it and I think that is one thing I will take out of this situation.”

Simmonds has adapted her pool-based training to a land-based regime with gym sessions via videolink with her coach three times a week plus circuits, long walks, static bike rides, yoga and chin-ups on a bar attached to the door frame of her laundry room.

She is also taking part in mindfulness session organised by British Swimming for the members of the Para-swimming programme and has praised the efforts which the governing body have been making to support the athletes.

But even with the delay to the Olympics and Paralympics, health experts have cast doubt on whether the Games could be held next summer without a vaccine or effective drugs to treat Covid-19 being found.

On Tuesday, Tokyo Games chief Yoshiro Mori said that the Olympics would be scrapped if they cannot take place in 2021 – with the Paralympics also likely to be called off in that scenario.

However, Simmonds is just trying to keep her focus on keeping her mind and body active.

“At the moment I am not thinking about the Paralympics not happening,” she says.

“We can’t control it and you just have to leave it to the professionals who know what to do in this situation. It is a time when health and safety is more important.

“My plan for this summer was to go to the Games and then retire after. Now I will continue towards next year and Tokyo. If the Games doesn’t happen, then I will make a decision when that happens.”

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