A TALENTED para-swimmer who has enjoyed a whirlwind rise to the top of the sport in the past year has picked up a coveted award previously won by renowned athletes.

Ellie Challis, 15, of Little Clacton, has won Sports Aid’s prestigious One-to-Watch award following a record-breaking 12 months of medal-winning performances.

The accolade is presented to talented sports prospects considered to be the best up-and-coming athletes.

It has previously been awarded to Olympic and world champion diver Tom Daley, and gymnast Courtney Tulloch, who took park in last year's Commonwealth Games.

Collectively, past winners have amassed 43 senior medals from the most renowned sports competitions and gone onto become household names.

Ellie, who lost her arms and legs to meningitis at just 16-months-old, attended a presentation at Sea Containers House, London, alongside nine other nominees.

The swimming sensation was presented with the award by Dame Katherine Grainger, fighting off 1000 other rising British stars from 60 different sports, following an astonishing year in the pool.

At the IPC World Para Swimming Championships, for example, the Colchester Phoenix swimmer won bronze in the women’s S3 500m backstroke.

She also set one world and two European records at British Para Swimming International.

After receiving the award, surprised Ellie said: “I was so shocked when I heard my name read out as the winner of SportsAid’s One-to-Watch award.

“It’s blown me away to hear about all the amazing achievements of the other athletes and then realise I’m the one who has won the award.”

Ellie is now hoping to make it to Tokyo 2020 and, despite having to concentrate on her vital GCSE exams next year, says swimming will continue to remain her number one priority.

She said: “Europeans and Tokyo 2020 are high on my priority list for next year - the aim is to qualify.

“I’m going to go to qualifiers and then just get out what I can from the experience, and if I qualify then great.

“Regardless of my GCSE exams, 2020 is going to be very swimming-based.

“That is my priority and I can’t wait.”

After an astounding 2019, Ellie’s coach, Julie Jago, is now hopeful that the young talent will go onto realise her dream of becoming a paralympian. She said: “Ellie has had a truly amazing year and this award is very well deserved.

“I am immensely proud to be her head coach and would like to thank the Colchester Phoenix coaching team, especially Donna Cowan, for supporting Ellie and myself throughout her incredible swimming journey.

“We wish her every success in 2020 where Ellie hopes to achieve her dream of qualifying for the Paralympics."

SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch award was presented as part of the charity's Celebrate the Next event,

It was sponsored by London's Royal Bank of Canada.

For more information about SportsAid visit sportsaid.org.uk.