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.
Ever wise and resilient, she adds, "But hey, I think maybe everybody’s got a story like that. I don’t think it was specifically because of my CP."
Ella’s classification for the para-swimming is S8, for swimmers with full use of their arms and trunk and some leg movement because of how CP affects her, she swims freestyle and backstroke and finds breaststroke too painful on her legs.
Freestyle is her strongest stroke, as she’s predominantly arms-based.
"I lack spatial awareness below my waist," she said.
"When I ‘m in the water, if I’m not looking at my legs I have no idea where they are."
Her starts and turns are the same as for an able-bodied swimmer, but she doesn’t get the same distance and thrust from them. Although cerebral palsy affects everybody differently, one of the characteristics of swimmers with CP is that they fatigue easily. Tiredness increases clonus, a neurologically induced muscle spasm that causes shaking.
In London, Ella will swim against only those in the S8 class for the first time.
In Australia there are not enough para-swimmers to hold separate events in each category, so places are determined by times swum. The closer a swimmer gets to the world record in their classification, the more points they win. She’s the only competitive S8 swimmer in Australia and the only female S8 on the team.
For the first time, Ella will swim a race where the winner is she who hits the wall first.
"After a race, I physically can’t hold myself up," Jones said.
She has a wheelchair waiting for her at the end of the pool, which she uses to get herself over to the warm-down pool.
"I’ll shake for a little bit, and then I just put on my fins, plop into the pool and do my warm-down. And then I’m pretty much good again."
That’s a good summation of Ella’s approach to life. Train like crazy and then try your heart out. Have the help you need close to hand, fall down in a shaking heap when you need to, and then get up and just keep on going until you win.