In a month’s time Ellen Keane’s daily routine will have a major change.
She will still be in her hometown and she will go swimming in the same place as every day. The difference is that the National Aquatic Centre will be crowded, there will be cameras to show her in the pool and Keane will be representing Ireland in the Dublin 2018 World Para Swimming Allianz European Championships.
“Every day that I go to training at the National Aquatic Centre I get a bit more excited knowing in the back of my head that in August all Europe is going to be there and I will race in front of the home crowd,” said the Dublin-born swimmer.
Keane took Ireland’s only Para swimming medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympics finishing third in the women’s 100m breaststroke SB8. She saw the atmosphere created by the Brazilian fans and has good memories from the London 2012 Games. Now she hopes Dublin 2018 can have a similar impact in her country.
“It is such a big thing for Ireland. When London hosted the Paralympic Games it was such a big movement for Para sports in the UK. This is a great opportunity for Ireland to experience what Para sports is all about and a great chance to show what I dedicated my life to.
“We want to educate people and show them that we are not people with disabilities who swim. We are elite athletes who really just want to go there and win gold.”
It is not only when Keane goes to training that she experiences the changes Dublin 2018 has brought. It is also on TV for the whole country to see.
“Allianz, the main sponsor of the European Championships, released an ad which I feature in and has been broadcasted to the whole country. So people come and talk to me now and ask: ‘Are you the girl from the ad? What is it?’ People are starting to get really interested in and that is really exciting.”
At only 23 Keane has was Ireland’s youngest ever athlete in the Paralympic Games when she competed at Beijing 2008. She has come a long way but she says that, in many ways, it feels like her career is just beginning.
“It has been such a bizarre journey for me. Of course starting off so young I didn’t know exactly what I was doing and I wasn’t an elite athlete when I competed in Beijing. I’ve had ups and downs but since London I’ve come a long way, I’ve dedicated myself to it, put a lot of work and it’s started to show off. But I know I still have a lot to learn.
“Winning bronze in Rio was like just the beginning for me and I felt like it was my first real Games. The first Games that I felt I was properly prepared for. So I’m really excited for the Europeans this year, the World Championships next year and then on to Tokyo [2020 Paralympic Games].”
The World Para Swimming Allianz European Championships will take place at the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin from August 13-19. Almost 400 Para swimmers from 37 countries are set to take part in Ireland’s biggest ever Para sport event.
To buy tickets for the championships click here.