From the sofa to the World Games – Chesterfield’s Ellie targets Paralympics after life changing encounter with sport

Ellie Simpson
Ellie Simpson

Just two years after trying her hand at sport for the very first time, a Chesterfield student is preparing to represent her country in international competition.

Ellie Simpson, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, has had her life transformed by sport ever since she became inspired by the London 2012 Paralympics.

Ellie Simpson

Ellie Simpson

It wasn’t actually until 2013 that she first got the chance to try Paralympic sports.

But once she did, she was hooked.

And the Sheffield Hallam University student is now looking forward to her international debut at the World Cerebral Palsy Games in August.

Although it all started with the television coverage of the 2012 Paralympics, Simpson’s path into sporting particpation wasn’t altogether direct.

“The London 2012 Paralympics were the driving force,” she said.

“I was absolutely glued to my TV and I’ve never wanted to go away and follow something up as much as I did when I watched the Paralympics.

“But after the Paralympics I couldn’t find any sports I could get into, and I kind of gave up.”

The following year she didn’t have to go looking for sport, it was brought to her doorstep.

“In April 2013 Paralympics GB came to the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield with a ‘Sports Fest’ where you could have a go at every Paralympic sport and even meet some of London 2012’s stars.”

“It was here that I first had a go at athletics, fell in love with it and took it all the way.”

Simpson threw herself into her new passion, training hard three or four times a week, fitting sessions around her university studies.

And it transpired that she’s quite the natural.

Like a number of her 2012 heroes, Simpson found herself training in more than one discipline.

Her classification, ‘F32’ refers to her disability and means she competes in a seated position in both the club throw and racerunning.

The club throw is the Paralympic equivalent to the hammer throw – a heavy weighted wooden baton with a metal head that competitors throw from a seated position, sitting on specially designed chairs known as throwing frames.

Racerunning is a sport for athletes with Cerebral Palsy and similar disabilities, in which they sprint with support from a frame that resembles a trike – essentially a wheelchair propelled by the athlete’s legs rather than their arms.

Less than two years after taking sport seriously for the first time, she has now earned an international call up.

“I’ve been selected to represent England in the World CP Games in Nottingham this August, for both the club throw and racerunning.”

“Over 25 different nations have entered teams and it feels absolutely amazing to be representing my country, I’m honoured.”

“It would be amazing to take a place on the podium, but my priority is to enjoy my first ever experience of being an international athlete, at a World Games with a home crowd.”

In return for all her hard work, training and enthusiasm, sport has changed her life.

“Athletics has transformed my life physically, socially and academically,” she said.

“Physically I am a lot stronger than I was before; my co-ordination has greatly improved. It’s a bit like doing physio, but it’s a lot more fun.”

“I have made some absolutely fantastic friends through sport, I’ve met the most genuine and supportive people and training is a social event, not just a necessary process to maintain your sporting career.”

“I wanted to study an English based degree at university, but since I got into sport that all changed – I’ve just finished my first year at Hallam studying Sports Development with Coaching.”

It is her hope that she can use her sporting success, and qualifications, to lead more people into sporting participation.

“I want to make Paralympic and disability sport more visible, and make disabled people aware of the opportunities that are available, as well as making these more accessible.”

“Unless you have the contacts and know where the door is, it’s incredibly hard to get into diability sport.”

A support network is vital for any sportsman or woman, and Simpson can count on a family who are behind her all the way.

Mum Debbie said: “We’re constantly amazed by her.”

“To say she only took up sport relatively recently, she’s done brilliantly.”

Her mum, younger sister Anna and dad Andrew will all be in Nottingham later this summer to cheer her on in the World Games.

But before she’s even pulled on the England vest, Simpson is already dreaming of reaching the very pinnacle of her sport and bringing her story full circle, back to where it all began.

“My long term goal is to go to the Paralympics, either in 2020 or 2024. I also want to work to get racerunning recognised as a Paralympic sport – most of the events we see today were once not recognised, so I’m hopeful.”

You wouldn’t bet against her either, her drive and determination evidenced by a lightning quick transition from non participation to sporting success.

In her most recent race in Doncaster, Simpson broke her racerunning personal best by six seconds, finishing the 100m in 24.7 seconds.

Although she’s not yet classified in that particular discipline, it’s expected she will be an RR2 athlete.

And a time of 24.7 seconds would place her as world number one.

“I would never have imagined this when I sat on the sofa watching the Paralympics three years ago.”