It was, without doubt, one of the best duels in the London Paralympic Games. Two teenage swimmers, both born in 1994, fighting for the glory in the AquaticsCenter at the S6 classification. They faced each other 3 times during the Games, in the 50, 100 and 400 metres freestyle. Arlen won the 100m event, Simmons the 400m and none of them could win in the 50m , the silver went to Arlen and the bronze to Simmonds. (link to the 400m event, where Simmonds won the golden medal)
The two teenagers won 8 medals, 4 each other. But what I would like to talk about is the fight of each one against their disabilities to end up in a Paralympic final trying to get a medal.
Ellie Simmonds is quite more famous than Arlen, maybe one of the most famous paralympic athletes in the United Kingdom. She was born with achondroplasia, dwarfism. In Beijing, when she was 13, she astonished the sport fans getting 2 gold medals. She was the younger athlete of the whole British Paralympic team. After her success in China, she was awarded with the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year and in 2009 she became the youngest person to receive the honor of becoming a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2009. Only 1.23 metres and 45kg teenager, enough to wonder with her power in a swimming pool. For not talking about her sympathy and her charisma when she is off the pool, a cheerful girl, always smiling, an example of overcoming for every disabled person.
While Simmonds was receiving prizes, in 2009, Victoria Arlen woke up from a two-years long nightmare. The story was quite different for her. When Simmonds was already fighting against other swimmers to win championships, Arlen still fighted against herself to have a chance of keep on living and, after she woke up, learning again how to speak and walk. She was diagnosed with Transverse myelitis, a disease that left her in coma for nearly two years. In December 2009, she overcame the vegetative state and started her first challenge: to re-learn thinking, talking, eating and moving her upper body. Once she had finished her fight against herself, she was ready to start again doing sport, even if she was surprised when they told her that disabled people also could do sport. “Rock your disability” became her motto.
She started swimming and playing sled hockey, and began training hard to be at London 2012, doing 4 hours trains 6 days a week. In June she got the ticket for London, taking the S6 400m Freestyle world record in at the American Paralympic trials. That record belonged to Ellie Simmonds. Maybe, until then the Briton had never heard Arlens name. Breaking her record meant that she would be a hard enemy in the fight for the paralympic medals. And it was. Both swimmers delighted the fans with their performance in London. They always showed respect for the rival and acted in an honest way. Both of them are only 17 years old. And, without doubt, they are going to bring us interesting duels in the future paralympic events.