Walsall swimming champ Ellie Simmonds tops New Year Honours list

SWIMMING sensation Ellie Simmonds today led a charge of Olympic and Paralympic heroes recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours list.

London Olympic Games - Athletes Victory Parade

SWIMMING sensation Ellie Simmonds today led a charge of Olympic and Paralympic heroes recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours list.

Ellie, from Aldridge in Walsall, has been given an OBE after winning two golds, a silver and a bronze at this year’s London Paralympic Games.

Meanwhile, record-breaking cyclist Bradley Wiggins and sailor Ben Ainslie have been knighted, paracyclist Sarah Storey has been made a dame and Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Mo Farah and David Weir all get CBEs.

The OBE for 18-year-old Ellie tops off a sensational year for the star, who was also one of the 12 contenders for this year’s BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year.

The swimmer, who was given an MBE in 2009, said today: “It’s been a great honour to be included in the list which caps an amazing year for me personally and for British sport.”

Wiggins, who was the first British winner of the Tour de France, said: “It’s quite something really. I never imagined that I would ever become a knight so it’s an incredible honour but there’s a slight element of disbelief, and it will take a while to sink in.

“There was never any doubt whether I’d accept it or not, it was more a case that I never saw myself as a sir, and I probably never will.”

Dame Sarah, aged 35, who won four gold medals at London 2012, taking her Paralympic gold medal total to 11, said: “I can’t believe the number of times we’ve said this year, ‘Oh, can 2012 possibly get any better?’. We feel so fortunate that 2012 will always stand out as being the most incredible year.”

Meanwhile Ainslie, 35, who recently announced his retirement from Olympic sailing, added: “This is an incredible honour.

“When I set out Olympic sailing 20 years ago, I never would have dreamt this would happen.

“I couldn’t have achieved this honour without the support of all the people who have helped me throughout my career. So I hope that they can also take some pride in this moment.”

The Olympic and Paralympic stars have been joined by a string of unsung heroes from across the Black Country and Staffordshire, each of whom have dedicated their lives to helping others.

They include Wolverhampton couple Tony and Muriel Hiles, who have spent the past decade caring for children with severe disabilities and have now been given MBEs.

Mrs Hiles, who lives with her husband in Bushbury, said today that the couple were “delighted” with their gongs.

The 62-year-old added: “Being made an MBE has been the icing on the cake. We couldn’t believe it when the letters came through.”Long-serving Aldridge-Brownhills MP Richard Shepherd was awarded a knighthood.

The 70-year-old, of Aldridge, was elected the MP for Aldridge-Brownhills in May 1979.

In Sandwell, Kim Douglas from Great Barr has been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to people with asthma. Miss Douglas, aged 50, set up the George Coller Memorial Fund charity in memory of her son after he died from asthma aged just three-and-a-half.

As well as the sporting stars, there was also recognition for the people who made the games such a success, from Lord Coe, who becomes a Companion of Honour, to Jean Tomlin, who was in charge of the Games Maker programme and gets an OBE.

Away from sport, the main list includes a knighthood for illustrator Quentin Blake and CBEs for artist Tracey Emin, choreographer and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips and singer/songwriter Kate Bush.

Recognition

Actor Ewan McGregor and fashion designer Stella McCartney get OBEs, while former England cricketer Mark Ramprakash gets an MBE.

Tony Blair’s wife Cherie Blair is given a CBE in recognition of her service to women’s issues and to charity in the UK and overseas.

A CBE also goes to UK Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox, as well as actor-turned-politician Michael Cashman MEP, best known for his role as Colin Russell in EastEnders – a participant in the first gay kiss in a British soap opera.