Last Updated: August 26, 2012 4:49pm
Ellie Simmonds: Looking forward to competing in the upcoming London Paralympics
Ellie Simmonds says her experience in Beijing will help her in the London Paralympics.
The Walsall-born swimmer became the face of the 2008 Paralympics at the tender age of 13 when she won the 100 metres and 400m freestyle in Beijing.
Since then she has picked up numerous world and European titles and Simmonds, now an old hand at just 17, is grateful to have already negotiated the exposure she received in Beijing as she heads into the Paralympics firmly in the spotlight.
She said: "Coming into London having the experience of Beijing is really good.
"Going into Beijing I was like 'what's a Paralympics?' I'd seen it on TV but I hadn't experienced it so to come to London and have that experience to know what it is like definitely gives me an advantage."
Ellie Simmonds Quotes of the week
"I've been on this team for quite a long time now - when I was 12 I went to the World Championships - so to be experienced and know what the Paralympics is like and be up for it....
"Going into Beijing I was like 'what's a Paralympics?' I'd seen it on TV but I hadn't experienced it so to come to London and have that experience to know what it is like definitely gives me an advantage.''
Simmonds trains under Billy Pye at the same Swansea pool as Olympians Jemma Lowe and Georgia Davies, although she has avoided asking them about their Games experiences, instead excited to embrace first-hand the effect of the 17,500-capacity Aquatics Centre.
She said: "I just want to walk out and feel the crowd behind me. I don't want to know what it is going to feel like - just be surprised.''
While such a prospect thrills Simmonds, she concedes it can intimidate some.
"It depends on their attitude. In Beijing when the Chinese athletes had a massive roar that gave me a buzz pretending they were shouting for me. Different personalities suit different occasions."
Such composure no doubt helped guide Simmonds through the maelstrom of attention her exertions in Beijing afforded her and neither does the pressure of expectation weigh heavily.
Instead, she underlines the importance of the likes of coach Pye as well as her family, a tight-knit unit she returns to see at weekends from her Swansea base where she moved with her mother, Val, in 2007.
"It can be a positive or a negative but I have a great support team around me which turns it into a positive for me, handling pressure,'' she said.
"I've coped with it since Beijing and it drives me forward, knowing people are watching me.''
Some may assume victory is a formality but Simmonds is quick to point out the danger posed in her S6 category in which she will compete in the 50m, 100m and 400m freestyle, as well as the 200m individual medley where she will compete in the SM6.
Victoria Arlen, an American paralysed from the waist down, offers a significant threat having taken Simmonds' world records in the 100m and 400m freestyle while the Briton also expects new faces to emerge as she did in Beijing.
However, she can dive into the pool in Stratford with confidence having become the first swimmer to set a world record there when she lowered the 200m individual medley mark at the trials in March.
She said: "It was really good. At the trials my other events didn't go as well as I hoped so to do a world record in the 200IM was so unexpected and I was really happy with it.
"I had trained a lot in the IM so to do a world record and know that the pool for me is a good pool and that I can do personal bests in it sets me up for London."
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