Ellie Simmonds will be back in training this month and setting her sights on further glory at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
While the British icon will not be competing at this year’s World Para Swimming Championships, which run from September 30 to October 7 in Mexico City, she is keen to get back in the pool and apply her new outlook on life to her sport, as she told ParalympicsGB in an interview.
“I’ve had an incredible year, probably the best year of my life aside from swimming,” said the 22-year-old, who successfully defended her 200m individual medley title in the S6 category at the Rio pool with a world record of 2min 59.81sec.
“I’m relishing the moment where I have to get back into the pool at 5am and swim for two hours.
“I think the big thing is that I can take all the experiences I’ve had of the world and apply them to swimming.
“I know myself much better than before and I know what works for me so I am really excited to get back to business and work towards Tokyo 2020.”
Simmonds made her name as she won two golds in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics despite being the youngest in the British team at the age of 13.
She added a further two golds at London 2012, setting a world record in the 400m freestyle.
During her time away from the pool, Simmonds went travelling and found herself swimming with sharks in South Africa, having her money stolen in China and camping next to Ayers Rock in the outback of Australia.
“I felt like everything had gone so quickly and I needed a year to find myself and figure things out and get away from the sport,” she added.
“I think travelling on your own and meeting new people gives you a lot more confidence and experiencing new cultures helps you to know yourself better as an individual and what works best for you.
“I was working for an ocean conservation charity in South Africa and then in China a taxi driver swapped all my money for fake money.
“I’ve gained a new perspective on life and learned so much.
“But now I have one goal: to get back representing my country.”