Ellie Robinson's Paralympic swim is a 'triumph' after being told to 'manage' chronic pain

Ellie Robinson’s Paralympic swim is a ‘triumph’ after being told to ‘manage’ chronic pain

Ellie Robinson

On her 20th birthday this week, British Paralympic swimmer Ellie Robinson finished fifth in the S6 50m butterfly final in Tokyo. Afterwards, she delivered an epic monologue about how her story of chronic pain and elite sport was one of triumph, not defeat.

After the final, Robinson shared the struggles she faced just to get to the Paralympics in Tokyo this year after it was postponed, talking about the intense, chronic pain she has experienced in her hip in the lead up to the event.

Robinson was diagnosed with Perthes’ disease in her hip in 2012, a childhood chronic condition that will ultimately result in limitation of the joint’s movement. Robinson said the postponement of the Paralympics had seen her hip deteriorate, and many people told her not to continue swimming.

Robinson said her story wasn’t one of “sorrow and heartbreak” and said she was proud of herself for a result that is ultimately a triumph.

“I honestly thought I’d be more upset than this, but to be honest, I came here and I made the final and I’m still in the top five,” she said after the final. “Even though I didn’t medal, I can still say that I ended on my own terms. I went out the way that I wanted to.”

Robinson was the defending Paralympic champion, and finished with a time of 37.08, just 0.25 seconds outside of a podium finish.

“Had the Games been last year, it would have been a completely different story but I think with lockdown and the extra year and the adaptation with training it properly took its toll on my hip and I just ran out of time,” she said.

“I had two failed hip injections, I had different medications but nothing worked – nothing eased the pain. I didn’t swim a length of butterfly from November to May in training.”

Robinson said medications for her condition have not worked, and she’s been told to “just manage the pain”, but she was determined to get to the Paralympics this year and “finish on her own terms”.

“So I am incredibly proud to get here, there were times when I thought I’d struggle just to even get to the Games. I remember saying even if I have to crawl to the blocks on my hands and knees, I will get there,” Robinson said.

“I have had people telling me all the way back in December, I don’t have to finish, I can finish now but I remember screaming back at them saying I am not going to bow out. I am not going to quit. I am finishing on my terms.”

Robinson said she was so proud of herself for getting to where she has.

“I have been in agony this whole year – this is a story of triumph, this is not a story of defeat,” she said.

“I’m so proud of myself for getting this far. This is just showing people that what threatens to weaken you will not conquer you – you will overcome it and you will end on your own terms. You are in control all the time.

“I’m in control of when I finish. I’m not being told when I finish and I went out there and I proved to myself I can overcome challenge and I’m so glad I did.”

Robinson won a gold and bronze medal in 2016 at the Paralympics in Rio. She is now looking to refocus her energy on study, and will eventually undergo hip replacement surgery.

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