May has been such a busy month for me. In the week leading into the Europeans all of my second-year assignments were due, I also had a couple of practical exams and now I’ve come back to written exams. It’s been tough. I get so stressed out about exams and, even without realising it, I’m wasting so much energy. I didn’t swim well at Europeans and when the head coach (Jim Laverty) asked me what was wrong I had to explain just how tired I felt. He was like, ‘OK, this isn’t the main goal this year so just try your hardest and enjoy yourself, there’s no expectation on you.’ I was really grateful for that but, at the same time, I didn’t like swimming so slowly. The first few races were quite good but then I just felt so tired.
The problem with breaststroke, which is my main event, is that technique can so easily come and go. When my timing goes I get so frustrated. I knew pretty quickly that it didn’t feel good and wasn’t going to go well. It’s a stroke where you have to stay so controlled. When your timing goes you just need to stay relaxed. There’s nothing worse than a breaststroker who stresses out. Me and my coach Dave (Malone) always say that’s what I am… ‘a stressy breaststroker!’
The funny thing was I did a massive PB (personal best) in backstroke and nearly won a medal! I’m not a backstroker at all. The only reason I do it is for the IM but I’d been practising it loads in training and thought I might as well enter it. Turned out I got a PB by two and a half seconds and was just .2 of a second off a medal. Dave was like ‘if you’d won a medal in backstroke I could have retired!
Ellen Keane (21), from Clontarf, is already a two-time Paralympian and a three-time world medallist in swimming, an all-rounder whose best events are 100m breaststroke, 200m individual medley (IM) and 100m butterfly. She made a Paralympic final, in Beijing 2008, when she was only 13 and reached two finals in the 2012 Paralympics. She won two bronze medals at the 2013 IPC World Championships and another last year.
She combines training, six days a-week at the National Aquatic Centre (NAC) in Abbotstown, with studying ‘culinary entrepreneurship’ at DIT. She is just back from the 2016 European Championships in Funchal, Portugal, where she reached finals in five of her six events.