AS years go, they don’t get much better than 2019 was for Little Clacton's Ellie Challis.

At just 15 years old, the Para-swimmer broke one world and two European records at last year’s British Para-Swimming International Meet in Glasgow.

Not content with that, she then went on to clinch her first international medal at the World Para Swimming Championships, securing bronze in the women's 50 metres backstroke S3 event, before claiming SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award in November.

Unsurprisingly, Tendring Technology College student Challis has hardly come to terms with the fact she is now one of the sport’s leading stars herself, after only breaking onto the scene in 2017.

“I don’t even know what happened last year,” said Challis, who was speaking at a SportsAid event dedicated to championing the parents and guardians of talented young athletes.

“I swam my first race against people in my classification in April and didn’t even know it was trials for World Championships, which I qualified for.

“I went to the World Championships and it’s just been crazy since then.

"I just spent three weeks training in Japan and a week up in Manchester.

"It’s been a bit of here, there and everywhere.

“Breaking the world record was one of the best moments of my life.

"I was so happy to get it because I missed it a couple of times and to finally do it was such an amazing achievement, but you quickly move on to the next.

“I’m nearly 16 now and it’s all about what’s next and I can’t wait to see what comes this year.

"You have to stay calm and relaxed.

"If you think about it too much you’re just going to stress yourself out so you just have to go with it, see what happens and then look at what’s next after you’ve done it.”

Challis’ rise up the ranks has come almost as quick as the speed that she travels through the water, with a medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics now a definite possibility.

She will be 16 by the time the flagship event comes around this summer, which almost puts her in the veteran category compared to when her sporting inspiration made her Paralympic bow.

It’s hard to believe it’s almost 12 years ago that Ellie Simmonds won two gold medals as a 13-year-old at the 2008 Beijing Games, at a time when Challis would’ve just been starting school.

But this time around the pair will both be hoping to taste Paralympic success in Japan, which is still something the new kid on the block is pinching herself about.

Challis said: “I looked up to Ellie Simmonds.

"To be selected for worlds and to be on a team with this amazing person that I watched on the TV at London 2012 and Rio 2016 was incredible.

“Things like when I put pictures on Instagram and she messages me congratulating me and talking to me at camps are unbelievable.

“She’s just a normal person, but I look up to her so much.

"For her – as the person who inspired me to get into the sport – to be one of the people who I see regularly is quite crazy to me.”

SportsAid supports the most promising young British athletes by providing them with a financial award, recognition and personal development opportunities during the critical early stages of their careers.

Please visit to find out how you can help the charity support the country’s next generation of sporting heroes!