Ellie Simmonds may have wowed us all with her impressive dancing skills on Strictly Come Dancing, but the Paralympic swimmer admitted she’s been targeted by trolls online and it has really affected her.
Ellie, 27, who has achondroplasia dwarfism, said: “I’ve had it already. Some people have said, ‘How’s the dwarf going to dance?’ It’s sad and it does get to you.'"
Despite the keyboard warriors’ cruel comments, the gold medal-winning athlete has already been praised by notoriously harsh judge Craig Revel Horwood for her fantastic timing, rhythm and attitude.
And, as she says herself, she can always count on those closest to her to provide support. Ellie – who is dancing with professional Nikita Kuzmin, 24, on the show – told us: "I think having amazing, supportive parents raising me to be happy with who I am [is the key].
“I can’t change myself, this is all I know. All I’ve known is being small and adapting and being aware and also I think I’m very lucky with Paralympic swimming and being around so many different disabilities from such a young age. I’m aware of so many disabilities and in a way that helps me.
“I see my friends who have different disabilities. I see them as no different – I forget the different disabilities that they have. I think it’s about the support you have around you.”
Ellie also told us how she’s learnt to turn her nerves into a positive force. She reveals she listens to music by artists such as Harry Styles and Taylor Swift in order to relax and uses breathing techniques to focus. “Nerves are passion – it shows you care and you want to do well,” she said.
It comes after Ellie admitted it took some convincing for her to take part in the show after having "genuine fears" over the inevitable height difference.
The 4ft Paralympic swimmer said her anxieties were eased when she was partnered with Ukrainian dance pro Nikita and now feels confident they can make it work.
Speaking exclusively to OK!, Ellie said: “I met with the Strictly team and made sure that I was going to be comfortable because of the height difference.
"It was definitely something I thought about a lot before saying yes. Strictly have been amazing and have been helping me so much, walking me around the studio just to make sure I can reach everything and see if I need extra steps.
“Yes, I’m nervous about what it’s going to be like. Nikita and I were chatting about it yesterday and we’re going to just see.
“It might look different, and my partner’s going to be tall and we’re probably not going to be able to hold the same poses, but I’m sure it’s going to work.”
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