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Ellie Simmonds: Sport a huge help for mental health during pandemic

Paralympic hero Ellie Simmonds has described the challenges of life through lockdown and her new role to help promote next year's Commonwealth Games.

Ellie Simmonds has been appointed a non-executive director ahead of the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games
Ellie Simmonds has been appointed a non-executive director ahead of the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games

Ellie was not able to step foot in the pool once the first lockdown began, and like us all had to adapt the way she works.

The 26-year-old Walsall swimming sensation instead kept fit through exercise such as yoga and has stressed the importance of all forms of exercise on mental health.

Ellie, whose parents live in Aldridge, said: "It's not just physical but it helps mentally, going swimming, it clears my mind and I am able to push my body to its limits.

"It's not just about the likes of me, it's about going for a walk every day, walking your dog, being part of a local zumba group, there's so many opportunities, it's great for physical health, sport makes you fit, but also mentally.

"Sometimes you can't be bothered but after you feel amazing, it clears your mind.

"It shows how sport can help, even with the pandemic the likes of Joe Wicks shows what you can do at home."

Speaking at a community event to clear litter from a canal near her home, Ellie said it is wonderful to be able to be out and active again, engaging with other people.

She said: "The first lockdown affected everyone and for me it did too.

"I wasn't able to go into the pool for four months. I moved back to my parents for the four months and I was doing yoga every day trying to keep as fit as I can.

"The Paralympics was supposed to be last year and had to be postponed, it affected me mentally. Since then I'm very lucky that the Government said athletes can still train.

"After having four months off I was expecting to be unfit, but it was so nice to be back, I kept fit. It was so nice to be back and in my routine."

Ellie has also been appointed as a non-executive director for Birmingham's Commonwealth Games in 2022.

She will work alongside Nick Timothy, Theresa May's former chief of staff who was behind the Conservatives' 2017 General Election campaign, and arts administrator Lyndsey Jackson.

All three were appointed by Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright and will oversee the planning and development of the event.

Ellie was just 13 when she won her first two gold medals at the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008.

She won a further two golds at London 2012 and another one in Rio four years later.

Ellie also described how sport has changed her life.

She said: "Sport has changed my life highly, the opportunities that it has given me, I wouldn't be where I am today without it. I have been able to travel the world, represent my country, met lots of people, it's endless, the list goes on."

Ellie caught the imagination of the nation after winning success at such a young age and her fame has opened up many opportunities away from sport, allowing her to experience new challenges and have fun a long the way.

In recent years she has appeared on TV show A League of Their Own alongside Gavin and Stacey star James Corden, ex-England cricketer Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff and football legends Jamie Redknapp and Ashley Cole. She has become an ambassador for the Scouts and even appeared on BBC's Springwatch.

Ellie spent 12 months travelling the world in 2017 and admitted she contemplated retiring during her break, with the star eager to begin a career in teaching when she retires.

Speaking of this year's Paralympic Games which will now be held from August 24 until September 5, Ellie said: "Things are going well, I had trials a couple of weeks ago and the team is announced in June. It's going to be amazing."

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