Sports Personality of the Year: Why Ellie Simmonds should win

Each of the 12 Sports Personality of the Year contenders has an advocate explaining why they should win. Here, four-time Paralympic champion Marc Woods backs fellow swimmer Eleanor Simmonds.

With Eleanor Simmonds there are two certainties - triumph, shortly followed by tears.

It was a routine practised in record-breaking double gold-medal winning fashion in Beijing 2008 and perfected with two further titles as well as silver and bronze medals in front of her adoring home fans in London.

The nation had taken the then 13-year-old Simmonds into their hearts as she was overcome with shock and emotion after becoming Great Britain's youngest-ever Paralympic champion with S6 100m freestyle victory in China.

  • Finest moment: Smashing the S6 400m freestyle world record on the way to her first gold of the London Paralympics
  • Historical context: Became Great Britain's youngest-ever Paralympic champion by winning S6 100m gold at the 2008 Beijing Games.
  • In her own words: "There was a lot of pressure on me [before London 2012] but I am so chuffed to have had a great competition and achieved personal bests in most events."

"People really engaged with Ellie in a way they hadn't with any other athlete in the past because she was so openly emotional and always speaks from the heart," four-time Paralympic swimming champion Marc Woods told BBC Sport.

Whilst in 2008 there was genuine surprise at her achievements, in 2012 there was a real expectation of more.

However, as was seen earlier in the summer with Great Britain's other swimming double gold medallist from Beijing - Rebecca Adlington - home support is no guarantee of gold medal success.

"It was loud in the Aquatics Centre and when a British swimmer competed it was phenomenal, but then when Ellie got in it just went up an extra notch," said Woods.

"Will you cry again if you win?" Simmonds was asked in a pre-Games interview. "Well, I hope not" was her jovial response.

BBC SPOTY 2012 - The contenders

The swimmer, who has Achondroplasia, otherwise known as dwarfism, was certainly less composed after smashing the S6 400m world record and winning her first London gold medal.

"This is so embarrassing," was just about audible amidst another outpouring of tears from the 17-year-old.

But how did Simmonds cope? Well, beneath the friendly face of ParalympicsGB there is the focus and fight of the most hardened warrior.

"She isn't intimidated by anybody," said Woods, who saw Simmonds reach three World Championship finals  in her senior international debut at the age of 12 in 2006.

"I remember thinking 'Crikey, if she's doing that now and has the mental ability to get engaged into the training then, as she matures, she's going to be incredible'.

"You can see that now, Ellie is absolutely a racer with that kind of steely nature to her when she walks out to compete.

Contenders on Twitter

* Katherine Grainger and Bradley Wiggins do not have Twitter accounts

"She stands by the block and often faces those who she is about to race. Ellie has incredible focus and is really the complete athlete who leaves everything she has in the pool."

That was demonstrated during a hard-fought victory in the SM6 200m individual medley final, where Simmonds had trailed by around 20m with just one length of the 50m pool remaining.

A second gold was followed by an impressive 50m bronze and the swimmer completed her Games with 100m freestyle silver behind United States rival Victoria Arlen.

Simmonds admitted she was "gutted" to have missed out on a third Paralympic title in London, but took some comfort from doubling her medal tally from Beijing.

"I am so chuffed to have had a great competition and achieved personal bests in most events," reflected the teenager, who at the age of 11 relocated from Walsall to Swansea, with her family, to team up with coach Billy Pye.

Woods feels that support has been key to the swimmer's success, particularly when commercial interest was at its peak in the months leading up to the London Games.

Last 10 winners

  • 2011: Mark Cavendish (cycling)
  • 2010: Tony McCoy (horse racing)
  • 2009: Ryan Giggs (football)
  • 2008: Sir Chris Hoy (cycling)
  • 2007: Joe Calzaghe (boxing)
  • 2006: Zara Phillips (Equestrian)
  • 2005: Andrew Flintoff (cricket)
  • 2004: Dame Kelly Holmes (athletics)
  • 2003: Jonny Wilkinson (rugby union)
  • 2002: Paula Radcliffe (athletics)

"I think Ellie, her family and her advisors got that balance right," said Woods.

"I'm sure she's had a fantastic time following on from London and making the most of the opportunities that have come her way, but she wasn't doing it when the hard work needed to be done and that is why she was able to perform."

Winning six Paralympic medals by the age of 17 is an incredible feat for the swimmer who to date has not had the advantage of team relay events to boost her tally.

Woods admits that, as a distance specialist, it may be difficult for Simmonds to match David Roberts' British record of 11 golds, but insists her achievements have already helped facilitate a fundamental shift in the way Paralympic sport is perceived.

"Ellie turns up and delivers every time she gets in the pool and it's fantastic how that inspires [not only] those in swimming but also outside of it," he concluded.

"She is a great advert for the sport and a more than worthy candidate for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year Award."