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Paralympic sports - 21. May 2011.

Simmonds Expecting Testing Examinations In and Out of the Pool

Great Britain's Paralympic and World Champion swimmer Eleanor Simmonds is set for a summer of testing examinations both in and out of the pool - sitting her school exams in Spain before defending her European titles in Berlin, Germany in early July.

The 16 year old from Walsall, who is currently in Majorca on a British Swimming training camp, is having to balance preparing for next week's BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester and July's International Paralympic Committee (IPC) European Championships with sitting her GCSE school exams. But for a teenager who has accomplished so much already in her young career, she appears to be taking it all in her stride.

Eleanor Simmonds said: "It's a bit weird taking my exams whilst abroad at a training camp but it is ok. I just have to ensure that I keep a good balance between my swimming and my school work.

"I've got a person helping me which is really good. It can be tricky thinking about exams whilst training but we talked about it and we thought it would be best for my swimming and for my school that I took my exams out in Spain."

With the London 2012 Paralympic Games now less than 500 days away, Simmonds is well aware of the importance of July's European Championships and that, as the holder of two Paralympic gold medals and four World titles, she is one of the swimmers to beat in Berlin.

Eleanor Simmonds said: "I think there is going to be a lot of pressure on me because I won in Iceland at the last Euros. I also won more medals at the World Championships to go with my Paralympic medals.

"I've now got people wanting to beat me when it used to be the other way round with me wanting to beat them.

"I've got a lot of pressure, but it's the pressure that drives me forward and makes me want to succeed."

After adding World titles in 50m, 200m and 400m Freestyle and 200m Individual Medley last year in Eindhoven to her100m and 400m Freestyle gold medals from the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, Simmonds is excited at the challenges she will face in the German capital.
She said: "I'm really looking forward to the Europeans as it will be the last competition before London 2012 so it'll be good to see who's around going into the Paralympic Games.

"I thought my biggest rival Mirjam de Koning-Peper of the Netherlands retired last year, but its looks like she's made a comeback for Berlin. It'll be good if she is racing as we're quite big enemies in a very friendly way!

"My other main rivals are a fellow Brit Natalie Jones and a German girl called Verena Schott. I've got a lot of people to look out for. They are all out to beat me, so I've got to do the best I can."

One of the ways Simmonds copes with the pressure before a big race is by listening to upbeat music on her iPod. Her parents have also noticed a little ritual she does before the starting gun.

Eleanor Simmonds said: "I've never noticed it myself but my parents tell me that when I'm going to my blocks I always mess with my hat and goggles. It's little things like that which get me into the zone.

"Usually I'm listening to upbeat music before a race, something like Rihanna, stuff that I can really sing-a-long to. It makes me happy when I can sing-a-long."

Simmonds is one of many Paralympic and World Champion swimmers set to compete at the IPC Swimming European Championships between 3-10 July.

Other swimmers gathering at one of the last major international gatherings before London 2012 include two-time Paralympic champion Frenchman David Smetanine and Ukraine's Maksym Veraksa, the fastest Para-Swimmer in the world.

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