Passion and drive – they’re the key ingredients to Ella Jones’ attitude, and it’s proving to be a winning combination.
The young athlete from Springwood Swimming Club in New South Wales will take to the international stage as a Dolphin for the first time in September, after being selected to compete for Australia at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships.
She’s one of nine rookies set to make her debut in London next month and is one of our ‘New Kids on the Blocks’.
Chatting to Swimming Australia at the team’s warm-weather training camp in Cairns, Jones can vividly remember the moment she made the team and attributes this achievement as the proudest moment of her career to date.
“For me, I made it in the 50m freestyle, and I dropped a second and a half – I wasn’t expecting that at all,” she exclaimed.
“I looked up and saw it (on the results scoreboard) and I was screaming ‘Oh my God’ and mum and dad were in the stands and I was yelling. It was absolutely amazing,” she added.
As her excitement builds at the prospect of competing for Australia, this opportunity also allows Jones to represent her hometown – a gesture close to her heart.
“For me it means so much, it’s not just about representing Australia but it’s about representing where I’m from – Western Sydney,” she said.
“You don’t have to come from a big city or a big city club to represent your country and make it, so for me, that’s what pulling on the green and gold will mean – you just need to have passion and drive,” she said.
Originating from Penrith and learning to swim in a small backyard pool, Jones didn’t start swimming competitively until she was 15 years old, and now that she’s found her passion, there’s no looking back.
“Having CP (cerebral palsy) and having my brother and sister who don’t, I never found something that clicked,” she said.
“I finally found something with swimming where I was on a level playing field. I didn’t struggle as much, and I felt it was something I really took too.
“I wasn’t holding people back or falling over – I could train and compete on a level playing field and that’s what really drew me to swimming.”
The feeling of being in the water, gliding through her lane and being free makes her feel so elated, it’s a feeling like no other.
“It feels amazing, but it’s kind of hard to describe – its like I’m flying in a way, like I don’t have any restrictions, I don’t have anything holding me back when I swim, it’s just me and the water which is pretty awesome.”
While most of the time this may feel amazing, there’s no doubt Jones has also experienced some pain on her way to making a national team, with many long, gruelling training sessions under the keen eye of her coach, Nick Robinson.
“To get to this point in my career it’s been waking up at 4:30am to make sure I’m at the pool by 5:30am and my mum and my dad are awesome, my whole family is quite large and we’re all in on it. All the managing of work and training has been worth it,” she said.
With a mum she describes as “Superwoman”, two nans she claims are her biggest fans and two brothers that make her ultra-competitive, there’s no doubt her family have played a huge role in her swimming career – and it’s a fact not lost on the young athlete.
“My nans have been awesome to me and have always really grounded me, and I’m close with both of them. They watch online and they’re in their 70s and 80s, I love them very much and my mum to me is superwoman,” she said.
As the World Para Champs draws closer, the entry list is now in, with Jones set to compete in three events at the London Aquatic Centre – the Women’s 50m Freestyle S8, Women’s 100m Freestyle S8, and the Women’s 400m Freestyle S8.
“I think it’s going to be really surreal walking out on the international stage for the first time and I’m definitely going to have bragging rights in my family for ever,” she laughed.
Good luck, Ella!