Ellie Simmonds has been described as an “amazing ambassador for Paralympic sport” by British Swimming chief executive Jack Buckner as she weighs up her future.
Five-time Paralympic champion Simmonds on Thursday said of Tokyo 2020, where she has fallen short of adding to her medal haul, that “I think this is going to be my last”, adding “I’ll go home and evaluate.”
The 26-year-old Walsall-born athlete has won a total of eight Paralympic medals across four Games, including two golds at Beijing 2008 aged 13.
Buckner told the PA news agency: “She has been a legend of the Paralympic movement and a legend of British swimming.
“What an amazing ambassador she has been not just for British swimming but for Paralympic sport.
“We’re massively sad for her to leave, but also it’s good to re-evaluate – I think she’s looked a bit at the Commonwealths (the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games), and whether she might be tempted by that I don’t know.
“Above all else, it’s just massive thanks to her and everything she has done for British swimming and the Paralympic movement.”
He added: “It’s the longevity of her career, added to the way it was part of that kind of transformation of the Paralympic movement – she’d been at the heart of that.
“Whatever she does next, I think that stuff really means a lot to her and she will probably continue to play a really important role in Paralympic sport.
“I’m sure there will be plenty of things she could do. She is just a lovely person with so many talents and hopefully this is also going to be a platform for her for other things in her life.”
Buckner also spoke about Ellie Robinson, who after failing to defend her S6 50m butterfly Paralympic title earlier this week appeared to call time on her career due to an ongoing hip condition, saying “I finished on my own terms.”
Buckner said of the 20-year-old: “I think Ellie gave probably one of the most passionate and honest interviews we’ve seen over the recent weeks and she really sort of threw it all out there with lots of emotion, and I think we loved her all the more because of that.
“If it’s the end of her career we’ll do everything we can to support her, and if she came back in a few weeks and said ‘I’m missing this’ we’d support her as well.
“She has been another fabulous leader in the team. We would do everything to support whatever is right for her. I think it’s great she showed that emotion, but we’ve also got to give her the time to reflect on it as well.”
The GB para-swimming team secured eight golds, eight silvers and nine bronzes in Tokyo. That included five medals (three golds) for Reece Dunn, and two golds for fellow Paralympics debutant Maisie Newton-Summers.
Buckner said: “For all sorts of reasons these were the most challenging Games, and we had a real mix in the squad. We saw this new generation come through, which was fabulous. I’m really excited and happy.”
The Paralympics success followed GB registering a best-ever haul of swimming medals at an Olympics, with eight secured in Tokyo.
And on the summer as a whole for British Swimming, Buckner said: “It’s been an amazing summer. The swimmers have said ‘we want more for Paris’, so there’s a sense of ambition that I really like.
“It’s that combination of a really good set of results, inspirational young people, and ambition for the future. It’s been fabulous really.”
:: National Lottery players’ support to ParalympicsGB athletes and grassroots swimming initiatives is vital. If you’ve been inspired by ParalympicsGB athletes, visit www.parasport.org.uk to discover an inclusive community sport opportunity near you.