SWIMMER Ellie Simmonds brought an end to her Paralympics career, admitting: I’m happy I inspired the next generation.
The 26 year old was disqualified from her final race of the Tokyo Games despite touching home fifth in the final of the S6 400m freestyle.
Speaking after the race on Channel 4, she started to sob as she revealed for the first time that she would not compete at the highest level again.
Simmonds said: “This is going to be my last. I’ll 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.
“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.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for the support, my coach, my parents, my sister, family, everyone, for getting me to these Games and helping to get me to four Paralympics which is amazing.
“There are no words to describe it. I love it. I love the Paralympics and I love absolutely everyone on the team. It’s just been incredible but I’m looking forward to going home.
“One thing about these Games is you don’t have your family and loved ones in the crowds.
“For me they’re like my comfort blanket, even though I’ve been going for so many years.
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“It has been an amazing part to play – inspiring that next generation. I am honoured.
“It makes me emotional to think that Maisie (Summers-Newton) and Ellie (Robinson), all those guys and girls were inspired by watching me in 2012. Now they are inspiring the next generation.”
Walsall-born Simmonds, who has dwarfism, burst onto the scene as a 14-year-old at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics where she won two titles.
It was at London 2012, in front of a packed Aquatics Centres, where she truly cemented her position as the nation’s sweetheart with a further two golds.
Overall, she ends her career with five gold medals, one silver and two bronzes, eight world titles and a key member of a generation of British Paralympians who broke through to nationwide prominence.
She added: “Four Games is incredible. Especially as an nine-year-old watching Athens 2004.
“To think as a kid then I would not just go to one Games but four.
“Not only that, to go to a home Paralympics, to come away with eight Paralympic medals and being part of that Paralympic movement as well.”
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