Walsall's Ellie Simmonds returning to full-time training next month
Five-time Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds will return to full-time training next month – after admitting she considered retiring.
The 22-year-old ,from Aldridge, has taken a break from competitive action since winning the SM6 200 metres individual medley at the Rio Paralympics last year.
She has spent some of the year travelling to Australia, South Africa and the United States having lost some motivation following her fifth Paralympic crown 10 months ago.
Simmonds, who also took S6 400m freestyle bronze last year, has still been training part-time but is now gearing up for a permanent return after previously mulling over retirement.
Shesaid: "After a Paralympics you're always on a low. It's one of the biggest sporting events and you're on such a high. When it's done you feel empty and that motivation is lacking. There were days where I thought, 'oh, should I retire? I've achieved my dreams of getting gold'.
"But there's something deep down inside me that's thinking I want to keep going and I want to be the best athlete I can be.
"I want to move Paralympic sport even further forwards, move swimming even further forwards and showcase what the Paralympics is truly about.
"I decided after Rio to have a quiet year, I've been doing it for so many years I needed a mental break. I've had a year of enjoying myself and seeing the world.
"I'm getting back to full-time training next month and looking forward to the future.
"I went to the World Para Athletics Championships on Thursday and I want to be one of them, standing behind their starting blocks and it's great I've got that motivation back.
"I can't wait to go and race internationally."
Simmonds has no official comeback to racing pencilled in but is eyeing next year's World Para Swimming European Championships in Dublin.
She added: "Pressure is a huge thing, after the Beijing Paralympics and leading into the London Paralympics people expected me to get the gold medals before I'd raced. I'm lucky when I get in the pool pressure drives me.
"Going into London as the face of things and with the expectation, I feel if I can cope with that I can cope with anything."
Simmonds has also been an ambassador with heath and life insurer Vitality during her time off and hopes to inspire others to stay healthy.
"Sometimes people think, for me, it's an easy road. It's not easy, it takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice and dedication. Hopefully I portray that message," she said.
"These days some kids don't have self belief so to give it to them and say they can do anything is really important."
:: As an Ambassador for health and life insurer Vitality, Ellie Simmonds uses her passion for healthy living to inspire people to be active and make positive changes to their lifestyle. Visit www.vitality.co.uk for more information.