Imagen
female Para swimmer Ellen Keane smiles and holds up her gold medal

Ellen Keane

Swimming
1

Biography

Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Limb deficiency
Origin of Impairment
Congenital
Classification
S9, SB8, SM9

Further personal information

Residence
Dublin, IRL
Occupation
Athlete
Languages
Gaelic, English
Higher education
Culinary Studies - Dublin Institute of Technology: Ireland

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
The youngest of four siblings, she was brought to swim classes with her older brothers and sister. She began competing at age seven in Dublin, Ireland.
Why this sport?
Her father contacted the mother of a Paralympian who had the same arm impairment as her, and she was subsequently invited to a Para swimming competition. "Geraldine Conway, manager of the Irish Paralympic swim team, contacted my dad and invited me to compete in a disability swimming competition in Northern Ireland to see if I enjoyed swimming competitively. It wasn't really anything that I was expecting, but I realised that I loved competing and I loved the control that gave me."
Club / Team
National Aquatic Centre [NAC]: Dublin, IRL
Name of coach
Dave Malone [club], IRL

International debut

Year
2008
Competing for
Ireland

General interest

Hobbies
Listening to music, going to concerts, cooking, baking, spending time with her dog. (Athlete, 09 Sep 2019; skysports.com, 15 Nov 2020)
Memorable sporting achievement
Winning gold in the SB8 100m breaststroke at the 2018 European Championships in Dublin, Ireland. (Athlete, 09 Sep 2019; independent.ie, 20 Aug 2018)
Most influential person in career
Coach Dave Malone. (Athlete, 21 Aug 2021)
Hero / Idol
South African Para swimmer Natalie du Toit, Irish Para swimmer and coach Dave Malone. (paralympic.org, 16 Oct 2020; Athlete, 09 Sep 2019)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"Don't practise until it's perfect, practise so you can never get it wrong." (Athlete, 12 Jul 2015)
Awards and honours
She was named Para Swimmer of the Year at the 2018 Swim Ireland Annual Awards. (swimswam.com, 26 Nov 2018)
Milestones
At age 13 years and 154 days she became the youngest Irish athlete to compete at a Paralympic Games when she took part in the 2008 Games in Beijing. (paralympics.ie, 04 Jul 2018; realwire.com, 03 Apr 2019; SportsDeskOnline, 18 Mar 2020)
Ambitions
She aspires to work in the media as a broadcaster. "The reason why I became so insecure about my arm is because there was nobody in the media like me. There was nobody for me to relate to. I would like to go into media because I want to be seen." (the42.ie, 31 Dec 2016; allianz.ie, 29 Mar 2019)
Impairment
She was born without her left arm below the elbow. (Ireland Team Guide, 2018)
Other information
YOUNG PARALYMPIC DEBUT
She says that when she made her Paralympic debut at age 13 at the 2008 Games in Beijing, she did not completely understand the magnitude of the occasion until she raced against one of her idols, South African swimmer Natalie du Toit. "I didn't fully appreciate it at the time, how bizarre it was being that young at a Paralympic Games because no one treated me any differently. The only time I remember being kind of a bit afraid and overwhelmed was at my first or second race. I was in the same heat as Natalie du Toit, my idol. She had just competed in the Beijing Olympics as well as the Paralympics and she was twice the size of me, and here's me, the little tiny yolk. That's the only time I remember feeling my age. Things that just don't affect you as much when you're young because you're just kind of living in the moment and you don't worry about things and I think that's something that I wish I still had." (paralympic.org, 16 Oct 2020)

IMPACT OF SPORT
She says that swimming was important in helping her overcome insecurities about her impairment. "People might be insecure about their hair colour or their weight or things they think they can work on whereas I can never change that I have got one arm. I did shy away from it, I hid my arm, I became really insecure and it was a really hard time in my life. It was only really because of sport that I realised I'm actually capable of being happy in my body. Why can't I be happy in my body outside of the pool? That's where it took a bit of courage to choose to embrace my arm. I used to hide my arm in sleeves and it took till I was in college and until I was 19 to be like, 'I'm not going to wear my coat today and pretend that it's a completely normal thing for me to do'. But when I did that, I realised that the whole world didn't revolve around me and my arm and people really don't care that much. So when I did that, I got the confidence to do it every day and then it just became my norm." (punditarena.com, 18 Sep 2020)

Results

Unit Date Rank
Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games (Beijing, China)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m Butterfly S9 Heat 1 6
Women's 200 m Individual Medley SM9 Heat 2 6
Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB8 Final Round 6
Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB8 Heat 2 2
IPC Swimming World Championships Eindhoven 2010 (Eindhoven, Netherlands)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 200 m Individual Medley SM9 Final Round 7
Women's 200 m Individual Medley SM9 Heat 2 2
Women's 100 m Butterfly S9 Heat 3 3
Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB8 Final Round 6
Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB8 Heat 2 2
London 2012 Paralympic Games (London, Great Britain)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m Butterfly S9 Final Round 2012-08-30 7
Women's 100 m Butterfly S9 Heat 1 2012-08-30 4
Women's 200 m Individual Medley SM9 Heat 1 2012-09-06 3
Women's 200 m Individual Medley SM9 Final Round 2012-09-06 7
Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB9 Heat 1 2012-09-08 4
2013 IPC Swimming World Championships (Montreal, Canada)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m Freestyle S9 Heat 1 2013-08-12 9
Women's 200 m Individual Medley SM9 Heat 2 2013-08-13 7
Women's 50 m Freestyle S9 Heat 1 2013-08-13 8
Women's 50 m Freestyle S9 Final 1 2013-08-13 6
Women's 200 m Individual Medley SM9 Final 1 2013-08-13 6
Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB8 Final 1 2013-08-15 3
Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB8 Heat 1 2013-08-15 2
Women's 100 m Butterfly S9 Final 1 2013-08-17 3
Women's 100 m Butterfly S9 Heat 2 2013-08-17 3
2015 IPC Swimming World Championships (Glasgow, Great Britain)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m Backstroke S9 Heat 1 2015-07-13 9
Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB8 Heat 2 2015-07-14 2
Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB8 Final 1 2015-07-14 5
Women's 100 m Freestyle S9 Heat 1 2015-07-14 17
Women's 50 m Freestyle S9 Heat 2 2015-07-16 15
Women's 100 m Butterfly S9 Heat 2 2015-07-17 8
Women's 100 m Butterfly S9 Final 1 2015-07-17 8
Women's 200 m Individual Medley SM9 Heat 1 2015-07-19 2
Women's 200 m Individual Medley SM9 Final 1 2015-07-19 3
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 200 m Individual Medley SM9 Heat 3 2016-09-11 4
Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB8 Final Round 2016-09-14 3
Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB8 Heat 1 2016-09-14 1
Women's 100 m Butterfly S9 Heat 2 2016-09-15 2
Women's 100 m Butterfly S9 Final Round 2016-09-15 8
Women's 100 m Backstroke S9 Final Round 2016-09-16 8
Women's 100 m Backstroke S9 Heat 2 2016-09-16 3