21 January 2021
Impact stories: inspiring the next generation
Ellie Simpson was in her final year at secondary school when she watched the London 2012 Paralympic Games on television.
“I didn’t really know what was out there for me – I didn’t know what I wanted to study at university, I had no hobbies; I didn’t really have anything going on that I could explore,” she explains.
“I had become more and more aware that I had a disability, and that going forwards life wasn’t going to be as straight forward as I had thought.
“Then the Paralympics came on television. I had never thought about sport before – I thought that having a disability meant sport was something I couldn’t do. Suddenly I realised maybe here was something I could do.”
That night Ellie, who has cerebral palsy, searched on the internet for a local sports club she could join. But she drew a blank - and as time passed and with exams to prepare for, the search was put on hold.
Eight months later, Ellie discovered ParalympicsGB were putting on a SportsFest event – a ‘come and try’ session - in her hometown of Sheffield.
“It absolutely changed my life. I was about to leave school and I felt like I didn’t really fit in. It was about having something I felt a part of.”
As well as training and racing, Ellie runs a charity for young people with cerebral palsy to help tackle social isolation. Sport plays an important part.
She explains: “Sport is such an important tool to get people out, to build relationships and gain confidence. Before I took up sport I felt there were everyday things that I couldn’t do. Now, because of my sport, I have a different approach – is there another way to do this?”
Ellie race running for British Athletics at the 2019 World Championships
Like Ellie, London 2012 was a defining moment for the Crockatt family too – especially for then seven-year-old Sofia, who had lost her leg five years earlier due to meningococcal septicaemia.
“The event without doubt ignited a passion within all of us. It made us realise what was possible for people with a disability, and that Sofia could lead a perfectly normal life, stay healthy, take part in sport, and lead an active life,” explains Mum Karen.
“The Channel 4 ‘Superhumans’ campaign in the run up to 2012 was extraordinary. This was the first time we had seen people with physical challenges being portrayed as true athletes. The term ‘disabled’ did not seem appropriate – these guys were seriously ‘able’.
Sofia watching in the stands with mum Karen
“Sofia connected immediately. Her posters of popstars such as Justin Bieber and Cheryl Cole were ceremoniously torn down and replaced with images of Stef Reid, Richard Whitehead and Jonnie Peacock.”
Now the family arrange holidays to coincide with major Para sports events at home and abroad.
“As a family, we have noticed a change in attitude to Sofia in day-to-day life. Over the last few years, it is very rare for Sofia to go out with her leg covered up. She is proud of her prosthesis.”
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