By Sarah Francis
A young quadruple amputee was reunited with a disabled dolphin who inspired her to swim at the 2020 Olympics.
Ellie Challis, 13, who lost all four limbs to meningitis when she was 16-months-old, flew to Florida to met Winter the Bottle nose whose tail was cut off after it got caught in a net.
The young teen from Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex first heard about Winter when she watched movie based on the animal’s life.
It was after their special meeting two years ago that Ellie began swimming and now she is training with the English para swim team.
Ellie and her family were back at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium last month, so she could catch up with her aquatic inspiration for the third time.
Dad Paul, 53, said: “We try to make a holiday out of it and on the last day we get to go back stage to see Winter.
“It’s brilliant, it’s the reason we come here.
“Ellie has always loved animals, she has a couple of rabbits and one she has named Winter.
“Her whole bedroom is blue with photos of dolphins.
“It’s just something that she talks about all the time and is really mad on.
“It’s great that she is able to have such a focus.”
Ellie trains three times a week as well as competing every week.
Paul added: “It was watching Winter swim that Ellie said she wanted to too.
“You would never have thought a little thing would be able to swim as far as she does.
“At the moment we are very hopeful, it’s amazing.”
The Aquarium in Clearwater Florida facilitated the meeting and filmed the special encounter.
Paul said: “They are really good to us and welcoming, they remember Ellie and make it a memorable experience.
“I joked to them that Winter is our biggest expense.”