"I'm really just wanting to go there and leave Tokyo the fastest athlete that I can," she says.
This determination was instilled early in Ellie’s life. As a kid, she missed out on a lot of things. After being diagnosed with a rare cancer at just three years old, Ellie’s right leg was amputated. As she recovered from her heartbreaking diagnosis and the trauma of surgery, her parents were given a list of things Ellie would never be able to do with a prosthetic leg, like ride a bike or walk through the waves at the beach.
A keen water baby, this could have put a stop to Ellie’s love of the water. But she could swim, and swim she did, never using her disability as an excuse. Her resilience and determination saw her rise through the competitive ranks to bring home Paralympic gold medals.
Recognising Ellie’s drive to succeed, Toyota stepped up and facilitated the purchase of an Ottobock Genium X3 for Ellie, a waterproof robotic prosthesis that gave her mobility and freedom she never had before. Not only could Ellie move and train better; for the first time, she relished the joy of walking in the sea.
As Toyota supported Ellie, it also supports all women as principal sponsor of Women’s Health Women in Sport, helping to drive athletes of every gender and stage in their quest for mobility and to live life to the fullest. Toyota is the Worldwide Official Mobility Partner of the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee.
Through programs such as Para Tech, Toyota is working with other Olympians such as Australian Paralympic Rugby captain Ryley Batt to engineer a high-tech, specially designed seat on his wheelchair which will help to improve his mobility and stability in the future for training and games. The engineers at Toyota GAZOO Racing have also worked directly with Paralympic cyclist and gold medalist Andrea Eskau to elevate her handcycle to the next level.
It’s this commitment to ‘mobility for all’ that has seen Toyota change the lives of many disabled people. Not only athletes, but ordinary people with disabilities who simply want to live a more independent life. Toyota’s innovation in engineering has allowed for vehicle modification to advance in leaps and bounds to give people the freedom to live their lives unencumbered by the restraints their equipment had previously put upon them.
WORKING TOGETHER TO INSPIRE
With her go-get-‘em attitude to life, Ellie’s positivity is infectious and has made her a hot ticket on the public speaking circuit. She gives her time generously in order to speak with other athletes and kids with disabilities, inspiring them to explore life’s possibilities. “Life’s a precious gift,” she says. “I don’t want to waste that.” But perhaps most tellingly is the way in which Ellie sees her disability not as a setback but as a gift. “If you offered me the chance to go back 20 years and have two legs” she says, “I would say no.”