I’m just back from a 10-day warm-weather training camp in Fuerteventura with my club (NAC) in Dublin. It was at the same sports hotel that the Irish Paralympics team use – I’ll be out there again with them in August – but this was the first time I went there with my club.
There was about 30 of us. People think you’re away on a holiday, they have no idea! We trained two hours every morning and two hours every evening, with a gym session in between every few days. You’re not allowed to sunbathe and, even if you were, you couldn’t, because you’re so tired to do anything except swim, eat and sleep.
It’s a really nice resort and there’s so much to do there that I kinda hate it because it’s just teasing me! There’s a beach just seconds from the pool and you can go windsurfing and paddle boarding – all these things you’d love to do but just wouldn’t have the energy for. So it was no holiday but we still had fun. I shared a room with two other girls, including Ailbhe (Kelly, also a Para-swimmer) and, at night, we just had fun ourselves.
We trained in an outdoor pool. People wonder why we go away for ‘warm-weather.’ It’s partly for when you have to do a big hard block of training before you taper down for a competition. It’s nicer to do it somewhere different and hot. But it’s also for Vitamin D which is very important for athletes. We just don’t get that in Ireland.
The heat actually affects me badly. I have to drink about five sachets of Dioralyte a day or I get dehydrated. The other thing I hate about training outdoors is the sun. When you do backstroke outdoors you get blinded and keep swimming into the rope so I’ve a massive bruise on my shoulder.
We had no wifi out there which meant I was 11 days without the internet! Actually I kinda liked it, because my boyfriend James (Hollis) came away with me and the only reason I rely on the internet is to talk to him. He’s a British Paralympic swimmer who trains and studies in Loughborough. Whenever he comes to Ireland he trains with me and vice versa if I go over to him. We travel a fair bit but never miss training.
When I got back I found out I’d passed all my exams, which was great. Everyone else got the email while I was in Fuerteventura but, without wifi , I couldn’t check so it was one of the first things I did when I got back. My college friends had their night out to celebrate when I was away but that’s OK because I’m not really a ‘club’ person. So now I’m back in my apartment and training daily, as usual, at the National Aquatic Centre in Abbotstown. It’s life as usual again but there are two big events coming up soon that I’m really looking forward to.
The official announcement of the Paralympic team for Rio is taking place on 5 July in Dublin’s City Hall, so that’s exciting. And there’s the’ More Than Sport Ball’ on 2 July, a big fundraising event for Paralympics Ireland that I’ve been invited to. I’ll have to get a new dress for that!
I love dressing up and having events like that because, as a swimmer, you spend so much of your life getting wet. You can’t really wear make-up because it ruins your goggles and you won’t be able to see anything and also you’ll look like a Koala! That’s what we say when mascara runs down your face. So I love occasions like that and am really looking forward to it.
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 reached finals in five of her six events at the 2016 European Championships in May.