A talented teenage para-swimmer has her sights set on Commonwealth Games glory after national gold medal success in the pool.
Ella Cooper-Holmes, from Wigton, Cumbria, triumphed at the Swim England National Summer Meet.
The 18-year-old was born seven weeks premature with a dislocated hip. She had to spend most of her first year in a plaster cast which stretched from her shoulders to her toes following an operation to try and correct her condition. Following numerous tests Ella was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly before her third birthday.
Ella had had to undergo six operations, including major surgery in 2012 which saw surgeons take part of two bones out of her leg, inserting them in her ankle so her feet had arches. The operation also included straightening her toes and inserting a plate in her knee to restrict the growth in one leg as it was growing faster than the other leg.
After receiving a funding boost from national law firm Irwin Mitchell as part of its Don’t Quit Do It campaign which promotes participation in disability sports, Ella competed in the Swim England National Summer Meet 2018 at Ponds Forge in Sheffield, winning the 50 metres MC freestyle and gaining a silver medal in the 100m MC Backstroke. Ella also competed in the 100 and 400m MC freestyle and 100m MC breaststroke and qualified for finals in all events finishing fifth, fourth and seventh.
Ella has also just returned from competing in the 2018 World CPISRA Games near Barcelona, a multi -sport event for people with cerebral palsy. Ella competed in five events and gained three gold medals, one silver and a bronze for Team England who topped the medal table for swimming and overall.
Fran Mayes, lead Partner in Personal Injury at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office which is supporting Ella, said: “Our Don’t Quit, Do It campaign has given us a huge opportunity to lend a hand to some of the best new sporting talent in the country and also raise awareness of the huge benefits that sport can offer.
“Ella is a phenomenal athlete and we are delighted not only to have helped her take part in the Swim England event but also at her medal success.
“We will be following Ella’s progress with keen interest and wish her all the success for the future. We hope that she inspires others with disabilities to take up sport.”
Ella received £400 from Irwin Mitchell’s disability sports grants programme, part of the firm’s Don’t Quit Do It campaign, which is supported by multiple gold medal-winning Paralympian Hannah Cockroft MBE. The money paid for Ella and her mum Joanne to stay in Sheffield during the week-long competition.
The teenager who recently finished her A Levels in PE, business studies and ICT, has started a sports science degree in Manchester.
Ella, who trained daily with Cockermouth Swimming Club said: “I tried lots of different sports such as wheelchair basketball, hockey and javelin but when I tried swimming it just felt natural. I feel like a different person in the water and like I don’t have a disability. I train with able-bodied swimmers and feel no different to them.
“Winning the gold medal was amazing. I want to compete in the British Championships next year and hopefully the Commonwealth Games in 2022. The Paralympics would be brilliant but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself.”
Joanne, 48, is married to Greg, 44, and the couple also have a son, Scott, 14. She works part-time in a school to help care for Ella.
Joanne said: “The first year of Ella’s life was really difficult. It is not what you expect how being a new mum would be like, it was just hospital appointment after hospital appointment. I just knew something was wrong so when Ella was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, in a way it was relief. At least we knew what her condition was and appropriate care plans could be put in place.
“When Ella started out there wasn’t much known about disability sport but social media, the 2012 Paralympics and organisations like the Activity Alliance have really broken down barriers.
“We are just a normal family so the money from Irwin Mitchell was a great boost. It meant Ella could compete in the Swim England competition.
“We are so proud of Ella and her determination to succeed.”
The Don’t Quit, Do It grant programme from Irwin Mitchell offers individuals, disability sport charities and groups an opportunity to apply for help with the cost of training, equipment or participation in major events. Since its launch it has provided more than £50,000 to a range of different projects in the UK.
Irwin Mitchell is a proud supporter of disability sport and has partnerships with the England Amputee Football Association, Boccia England and a host of other related organisations. Furthermore, last year the firm was the Official Legal Services Provider of the World Para Athletics Championships in London and a supporter of the Superhero Series held at Dorney Lake in Windsor.