AS summer holidays go, they don’t get much better than a trip abroad representing your country, competing in the sport you love.

For Ellie Challis there’s no doubt it’s a dream come true.

The 17-year-old has trained since she was eight-years-old for the chance to compete in the Paralympics, so, as she jetted off to the Japanese capital, it all felt a bit surreal.

It hasn’t been a straightforward journey, however.

When she was just 16-months-old, Ellie, from Clacton, developed sepsis and meningitis which left her fighting for her life.

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The disease ravaged her tiny body, resulting in her having to have both legs amputated below the knee and both arms at the elbow.

But it’s not held her back, not for one minute.

Her inspirational journey now reaching its pinnacle has left her devoted dad Paul struggling to hold back tears of pride.

“We had an inkling in March that she might make the cut but didn’t find out until early June, but even then we weren’t allowed to tell anyone as the official announcement was to be made later in the month,” he said.

“It wasn’t anything fancy, we just found out over email but wow, the feeling was incredible.

“It’s hard to put the whole journey into words. She firstly got involved with swimming to keep safe, just like any other child would, before joining a swimming club aged eight and competing from ten-years-old.”

It was a slightly different form of inspiration, however, that really got Ellie going.

On a trip to America she met Winter, a dolphin with no tail which inspired her to take up swimming. And, even after breaking a world record and winning her first World Championship medal, she still continues to visit the dolphin which gave her a reason to dream.

“From the day she started competing she was quite quick and we thought she’s doing well, then she started hitting some amazing times and beating British records.

“We thought OK, well there’s not many in her classification so let’s remain calm, but then she broke world and European records and we thought wow, this is going to change everything.

“I just feel this sense of unbelievable pride in what she’s done, but mainly I’m absolutely thrilled for her. She has trained so hard over the past year and deserves every bit of her success.”

The chaos initially caused by the coronavirus pandemic back in March 2020 put a stop to her training, but Paul was on hand to ensure things didn’t come to a complete stop – by loaning a nine-metre pool for the garden.

“She’s one of those people that takes everything in their stride. When the games were called off last year she said ‘Well, I’m going to be faster next year’, and she really is.

“I was trying to hold back the tears during the Olympics knowing what was to come for my girl, I was getting emotional just thinking about it all.

“Because of the past year-and-a-half, no-one has been competing against each other, and so she’s headed there not really knowing what she’s up against . She could have a great chance or no chance at all.”

Devastatingly, with travel restrictions and access for spectators still up in the air, Paul won’t be able to go and watch his daughter perform in Tokyo during the biggest race of her life.

And, with Japan eight hours ahead of UK time and Ellie’s first event beginning at 1am here, just how will her family watch on?

“Oh it’s all sorted, don’t worry,” Paul added. “We’ve rented a nine bedroom house in Marks Tey for 23 of us to sleep in.

“We’re a loud family and everyone in the area will know we’re watching but it’s going to be on of the best nights of our lives.

“All I know is my little disabled girl is a Paralympian and to think what she’s done has been just amazing.”

Ellie’s first race is the women’s 50 metre backstroke on August 29 at 9am Japanese time.