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Paralympic Gold Medallist Ellie Robinson Makes A Literary Splash

April 3, 2023

    It could seem like an unusual journey from winning Paralympic gold in Rio to becoming a children’s author.

    However, Ellie Robinson makes it sound like the most natural career path in the world.

    She retired from swimming after the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021 and is now juggling her studies with writing.

    Her first book – The Gold Medal Mysteries – is out on 13 April but she is giving a sneak preview in southern Scotland on Saturday.

    Ellie, from Northampton, was diagnosed with Perthes disease in her right hip in 2012 – a condition affecting the hip joint in children.

    She went on to enjoy huge success in swimming, winning her Paralympic gold in the S6 butterfly, aged just 15, in 2016.

    After that chapter ended, Ellie was aware many sports people had difficulties moving on but said she had found it fairly straightforward.

    “I think there’s this kind of narrative that there’s a bit of an identity crisis or they struggle to transition into that next area,” she said.

    “It’s been such an integral part of one’s identity that you almost kind of grieve the loss of this huge piece of your life.

    “I was quite fortunate, it was in lockdown when nothing was really happening – training had kind of ground to a halt.”

    She started doing a history degree and did a lot of writing as well.

    “I was able to find what my next step was while I was still an athlete,” she explained.

    “I don’t know – I can’t say I hacked it – but I feel like my transition was incredibly smooth because I knew what that next step was, and I naturally kind of fell into it.”

    It helped when a literary agent saw an interview where she spoke about her love of writing and followed up on it.

    Book cover
    Image caption, The event in Dumfries will discuss Ellie’s first book in her series

    In some ways, Ellie was glad to leave parts of her old life behind.

    “I hated training – I couldn’t say it when I was an athlete – because it wouldn’t sound great,” she said.

    “But now I have finished sport I can proudly say – I hated training and I loved competing.”

    That doesn’t mean she has left the world of sport behind – her first book combines her love of history and sport in a mystery story.

    “The majority of the life lessons that I’ve learned or the personal development that I’ve made, it’s been made through swimming,” she admitted.

    “So there are a lot of life lessons in the book that the characters learn, there’s a lot of progression that they go through themselves.

    “I want to say about 90% of it is what I’ve learned in my own life and what I’ve learned through swimming.”

    It also helped with planning her work where her “inner swimmer” has come out.

    “I think I have to be incredibly disciplined, so what I do is I map everything out,” she said.

    “Swimming was quite regimented, particularly on race days, on competition days, we’d have to do like full timelines, which were so precise they were to the minute.

    “It think that the disciplined, regimented aspect of swimming has definitely played a part in balancing the studies with the book at the same time.”

    Now she is coming to Moat Brae in Dumfries – the place credited with helping inspire JM Barrie to write Peter Pan – for the Big DoG Festival of Children’s Literature.

    Not a bookworm

    She hopes her book can capture the imagination of readers like her younger self.

    “I wasn’t necessarily an avid reader but once I found a book that I liked I would finish it really quickly,” she said.

    “I wasn’t a bookworm – the librarian at my secondary school would definitely vouch for that.”

    However, Ellie said that a love of sport did not mean you could not also enjoy reading.

    “It is not actually an accurate reflection of children and society nowadays – you can be both into sport and into books as well,” she said.

    So perhaps the worlds of the Paralympics and literature need not be so far apart after all.


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