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Paralympic fever inspires a new generation: Ellie Simmonds named as kids’ most inspiring Paralympic athlete

22 August 2012

Ellie Simmonds pool

Paralympic fever is gripping children across the UK with over three quarters (78%) of British kids who have had the chance to try a Paralympic sport wanting to do it again, according to research published today by Sainsbury's - the first ever Paralympic Games only sponsor.

The survey of British children aged 8-15 reveals their strength of knowledge around the Paralympic Games and their excitement about the Games coming to London this year. One in five kids (21%) surveyed knew that the Paralympic Games originated in the UK (The Games were founded at Stoke Mandeville hospital in 1948). Almost two thirds (62%) of children were able to specify a Paralympic event that they are looking forward to watching when the Games start on the 29 August.

'Super' Saturday on 8 September is set to be the most exciting day for young British Paralympic Games fans. Millions of pairs of children's eyes will be glued to TV screens as the most highly anticipated event amongst kids is set to be Ellie Simmonds in the 100m freestyle - with one in five children (19%) saying they are most excited about watching this, followed closely by Oscar Pistorius in the Men's 400m on the same day. Other events set to be popular amongst British children are Wheelchair Tennis and Cycling Track.

Almost half (47%) of British parents questioned in a recent survey also commissioned by Sainsbury's said their children are excited about the Paralympics coming to the capital.** As part of its ongoing Active Kids scheme, Sainsbury's One Million Kids Challenge has worked with the British Paralympic Association and sent schools, clubs and organisations across the UK Paralympic Sports Kits, encouraging 2.4 million children to try Paralympic sports ahead of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Children's knowledge of Paralympic athletes is encouragingly strong, with one in five (20%) being able to identify their favourite British Paralympic athlete. The most popular British Paralympian amongst the children surveyed is Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson - the 11-time gold medallist and former wheelchair racer. Ellie Simmonds, MBE - the Sainsbury's Active Kids ambassador who won 2 gold medals at the Beijing Paralympic Games aged just 13 - came a close second and the 'Blade-Runner,' Oscar Pistorius, is the third most popular.

Jat Sahota, Head of sponsorship, Sainsbury's says: "It's great to see the whole nation getting really excited about the London 2012 Paralympic Games and we are proud to be leading the cheer through our unique sponsorship of the Games, our One Million Kids Challenge and our support for the ParalympicsGB Team. We believe this Paralympic Games is set to be the best ever."

Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of The British Paralympic Association, comments on the research findings: "Working with Sainsbury's to raise children's awareness of Paralympics sports across the UK through the One Million Kids Challenge really seems to have had an effect. It's great to see young Paralympic fans emerging in Britain and being the host nation certainly has a huge part to play."

Paralympian and Active Kids ambassador, Ellie Simmonds says: "I can hardly believe the London 2012 Paralympic Games is just around the corner and I'm completely overwhelmed by all the support and excitement that's already brewing across the UK. Knowing that so many British children are behind ParalympicsGB is what's going to make the event even more special - we can't wait to get out there and hopefully inspire a new generation."

Note to editors

* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 505 children aged 8 - 15. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th - 31st July 2012. The survey was carried out online.

** Figure from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2001 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st - 3rd August 2012.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Top 5 most highly anticipated Paralympic events in order of popularity amongst children

  1. Ellie Simmonds in the 100m Freestyle Swimming, 8 September, 19%
  2. Oscar Pistorius in the Men's 400m, 8 September, 10%
  3. Esther Vergeer in Wheelchair Tennis, 1 September 6%
  4. Richard Whitehead in the Men's 200m, 31 August, 5%
  5. Darren Kenny in Cycling Track, 30 August, 5%

Top 3 most popular Paralympians amongst children

  1. Tanni Grey-Thompson, 26%
  2. Ellie Simmonds, 19% 
  3. Oscar Pistorius, 17%