Swimming legend Ellie Simmonds supports ParalympicsGB athletes in Beijing
Five-time gold medalist Ellie Simmonds joined other Paralympic legends at the Hemel Hempstead Snow Center to celebrate the start of the Paralympic Winter Games and the National Lottery players’ key role in funding British athletes in Beijing.
ParalympicsGB is taking its most competitive team to the Winter Games, with more athletes looking to achieve their personal best in more sports than ever before.
Paralympian Jon-Allan Butterworth and British Paralympic Association Vice President David Clarke, who captained the UK 5-a-side football team and competed at London 2012, were also on hand to join in the celebration .
Thanks to National Lottery players, ParalympicsGB athletes can train full-time and produce performances in Beijing to make the nation proud.
Swimming star Simmonds is delighted with the start of the Paralympic Games in Beijing and is excited about the chance to see Britain’s Paralympians compete at the biggest para-sport event on the planet – while trying Snowsport herself.
She said: “I’m really excited. Being here with winter athletes and trying skiing and snowboarding is crazy, it’s great to see people try it.
“Beijing has a special place in my heart – it was my first Paralympic Games in 2008 and now there are Paralympic Winter Games.
“It’s the biggest British team to be taken to the Paralympic Winter Games since 1994, so it’s going to be amazing to watch.
“Sport is such a showcase, especially Paralympic sport – it’s so powerful. Seeing Paralympians compete from all walks of life – it’s just amazing and I’m so proud to be a Paralympian.
“We are all part of this ParalympicsGB family – it doesn’t matter if you participate in summer or winter sports. I’ve never skied or snowboarded, so I can’t wait to step into their shoes today and try!
“The National Lottery is really important – it helps us and allows us to fully concentrate and be elite athletes. And it shows that Paralympic athletes get on the podium and do well, representing our country and our sport. , but we couldn’t do it without the support of National Lottery players.
“It helped me to go to Beijing, London and Rio, and it’s a huge support and it was so important for my career.”
The support of National Lottery players to ParalympicsGB and Team GB Winter athletes and facilities across the UK is vital, and without it Jon-Allan Butterworth would not have had such an incredible career.
After winning four Paralympic medals in track cycling, Butterworth has switched to snowboarding and will be delighted to see his teammates compete in Beijing, especially at a very difficult time for the world.
He said: “With everything going on in the world right now, what the Games represent is so positive.
“Being part of the Paralympic movement and what it stands for and what it values is amazing – it unites people from all walks of life, from all cultures, and inspires and creates passion among equals. That’s what’s special about the sport.
“There are few opportunities to get people with disabilities into sport, so the coverage of the Paralympic Games is incredible. The number of sports around that you don’t know exist is amazing and it just goes to show that there is something for everyone. It’s hard not to be inspired by the Paralympic Games – it’s just cool!
“My involvement in transitioning from a summer sport to a winter sport – there are differences – but it’s still a high level sport and it’s still amazing with the speed and the adrenaline rush that I feel.
“Everyone should be behind the Winter Paralympians – we’re underdogs when it comes to winter sports because we’re not a winter nation, so when we’re successful it’s more congratulations. I think it will be one of our best Games to date.
“Without the National Lottery, I wouldn’t be snowboarding now and I wouldn’t have been able to ride a bike before. The number of medals we have won would not have happened and we would not be the great sporting nation that we are without them.
The Paralympic Winter Games will celebrate remarkable sporting achievements as well as challenging perceptions and break down barriers for all people with disabilities – something Clarke, a two-time Paralympic footballer and Vice President of the British Paralympic Association, is proud to promote.
He said: “We are really excited to see the sport kick off, starting today with the opening ceremony.
“I think the Paralympic Games and the Paralympic movement have had such a positive influence in so many ways, as seen in London 2012. It just keeps getting better and better, inspiring a better world for people with disabilities.
“For the public, seeing the Paralympic Games and getting into the sport is so exciting. I hope it inspires so many people and fits into a larger environment with buildings and infrastructure and creating a space where people are treated equally.
“As someone with a visual impairment, I always think downhill skiing for the visually impaired is amazing. From a BPA perspective, it’s also brought us medals in the past, so I’m really looking forward to it.
“I’m very proud of the length and breadth of our team and it’s the strongest team we’ve ever had.
“The National Lottery has been incredible in the way Paralympic sport has progressed. The funding provided by all National Lottery players has had a huge impact on the way our athletes are able to train and we will see the manifestation of this at the Games.
National Lottery players are some of the biggest supporters of ParalympicsGB winter athletes and raise over £30million every week for good causes, including grassroots and elite sport. If you want to find out more about how you can take part in inclusive sporting opportunities, visit www.parasport.org.uk