Paralympic hero Ellie Simmonds on the ups and downs of her swimming career

ITV News Central reporter Craig Punfield speaks exclusively to Paralympic champion swimmer Ellie Simmonds as she takes a look back on her glittering career in the pool.

Eight Paralympic medals, 16 World Championship titles and ten World records - swimmer Ellie Simmonds from Aldridge in Walsall has been at the top of her profession for almost half of her life since her breakthrough Paralympics in Beijing in 2008.

In September the 27-year-old retired following the Tokyo Paralympics - her first Games without a medal. The build-up to the competition was less than ideal. The pandemic meant a year's delay, something Ellie says she could have done without.

Ellie Simmonds (in the red hat) after a race in Tokyo - her final Paralympics. Credit: PA Images

"I found it really hard because I knew I'd planned to retire in 2020," she said.

"I was having to work quite well with my psychologist because I was having a few mental problems going into the Games.

"When I was swimming, like I was worrying about the depth. It was all like just weird, random stuff that I was worrying about, and I think that really got to me.

"I was just trying to just enjoy the games, but it was different. I was ready to come back and be back with my family and loved ones."

Despite the tough times, there were, of course, many highlights during Simmonds' record-breaking career.

None more so than the home Paralympics - London 2012.

201221 Ellie Simmonds PA Images Credit: PA Images

"It was the most incredible games, my favorite games. Being a household name had its perks. It was exciting," she said.

"There was a bit of cons as well because of the whole pressure.

"I remember going into my 400m free race, just being so, so nervous, physically sick, like standing in the call room, thinking, 'Why am I put myself through this?' but also when you've swam and when you race, it's a whole adrenaline rush, it's like a drug.

"You're addicted to that feeling afterwards."

Now a retiree for a few months, does she miss the sport?

"Yeah, I think I miss the routine and the structure and pushing my body like being fit - I don't miss the mental side of it. I don't miss the early mornings," she said.

And for those wondering if she was tempted to stay on an extra year to compete in front of a home crowd in Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games - the answer is clear.

"No, no. I knew I was done. I was ready. I was done like mentally, just physically."

Now she's looking forward. Ellie's recently started a swimming coaching course and says she would love to remain a part of the sport. Looking back on her career, she says she has no regrets.

"It was the most amazing career and I've loved every second of it and I don't regret anything like it's made me the person I am today," she said.

Watch the interview above to hear more about the Paraylmpic legend's thoughts on her incredible career.