Ella Jones’s selection to represent Australia at the World Para-swimming Championships after only three years as a swimmer is evidence of her extraordinary persistence.
The 18-year-old has never let conforming – or her disability – get in the way of success.
Three short years ago, Ella Jones would not have picked herself as representing her country in an international swimming competition. In April she got the news that she’d made the Australian Dolphins team.
The teenager is heading for the World Para-swimming Championships in London in September, one of nine new members of the 34-strong squad.
A good showing in London will see her in line for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. The achievement is all the more extraordinary as Ella, who has cerebral palsy, only began swimming at age 15.
"The most exercise I’d done before I started swimming was running after the ice-cream truck," she said.
"If you’d told me as a chubby 15-year-old I’d make the world para championships, I’d go yeah, righto."
Ella’s mum, Sharon, persuaded her to try swimming because she needed something to do.
"I was being a right 15-year-old ratbag, every parent’s worst nightmare," Jones said.
"I’d tried other sports but nothing really clicked."
She’d had a go at swimming at 14, in a class with six-year-olds near her home in western Sydney. After a few lessons, the instructor told Sharon that she was never going to be a very good swimmer.
Sharon was having none of it and took her to the pool at Springwood in the Blue Mountains. Nick Robinson, who specialises in coaching kids with disabilities, spotted her potential. He arranged with Sharon to train her.
"From the first session I knew she had the ability to go all the way," he said.