Ellie Simmonds has announced her likely retirement from the Paralympics following the S6 400m freestyle final.
Flagbearer for the opening ceremony, the 26-year-old is one of Great Britain’s most iconic Paralympians but could not add to her eight Games medals in Tokyo.
Hopes of a fairytale ending were dashed when the five-time gold medalist finished fifth in the final, with China’s Yuyan Jiang taking gold in a world record time.
Paralympics
'We are sick of being second best' - Weir demands authorities do more for para-sport
06/09/2021 AT 22:57
Simmonds had initially been disqualified before a protest from ParalympicsGB led to her reinstatement and upheld her finish.
“"I think that is my last competition,” a tearful Simmonds told Channel 4 after the race.
To go to four Paralympic Games, including a home Games, and to come away with eight Paralympic medals and being part of that Paralympic movement as well... So I think for me, yes, this is going to be my last but I will go home and evaluate. I'm not just saying that because I'm gutted or anything like that, I knew going into these Games this was going to be the last and I don't think I could go for another three years.
“I'm leaving it at the right time, I love it, I've absolutely had a wonderful competition and I've loved every minute of it.”
Simmonds shot to stardom in 2008 when, at just 13 years old, she won two gold medals in Beijing on her Paralympic debut.
Winning in the S6 100m and 400m freestyle, Simmonds was the youngest Brit to compete in China.
The Walsall-born swimmer was rewarded with an MBE the following year, similarly becoming the youngest person to ever receive the honour.
Four years later at the home Games in London, Simmonds surpassed her Beijing haul – matching her two golds with world-record breaking triumphs in the 400m freestyle and 200m individual medley, as well as adding a silver and bronze in the S6 100m and S6 50m respectively.
She successfully defended her 200m individual medley title at Rio 2016, also taking bronze in the 400m freestyle.
"I can't thank everyone enough for the support, my coach, my parents, my family, everyone, for getting me to these Games and the other four Paralympics which is amazing,” Simmonds continued.
There's no words to describe it. I love the Paralympics and I love everyone on the team, it's just been incredible but I'm looking forward to going home. Not having your family here in the crowd has been hard, for me they're like my comfort blanket, even though I've been going for so many years.
She may not depart Tokyo with a medal, but she leaves with a legacy established years prior.
Simmonds said: “It's been an amazing part to play in inspiring the next generation and it makes me emotional to see the girls, thinking that they were inspired by me when they watched London 2012.
“Now they're inspiring that next generation so it is amazing but it's not just me, it's everyone behind me and I'm just so thankful for everything."
Despite the sadness of Simmonds's announcement, there was joy to come in the pool for Team GB as Bethany Firth completed an incredible hat-trick of backstroke titles in the S14 backstroke final.
Having won in London and Rio, Firth saw off the challenge of Russia’s Valeriia Shabalina to secure an incredible third consecutive gold in the event.
Teammate Jessica-Jane Applegate rounded out the podium for bronze, celebrating wildly with her three-peat completing compatriot at the wall.
Paralympics
ParalympicsGB finsh second in Tokyo medal table
05/09/2021 AT 09:01
Paralympics
Golds for Miller, Broom-Edwards, Wiggs as GB pass 100 medals
03/09/2021 AT 15:18