Keane lights up NAC with European gold

by Stephen Findlater

NAC’S Ellen Keane delivered on her billing as one to watch at the World Para Swimming Allianz European Championships as she won the S8 breaststroke gold medal at her National Aquatic Centre home venue in Abbotstown last weekend.

She saved the best for last after a fourth place in the 100m backstroke by just a finger-tip in her first event. She did get on the podium in the 200m individual medley soon after as she delighted the huge home crowd.

She was able to block out the cheers to deliver a composed performance that saw her comfortably hold off the challenge of Zsofia Konkolyy by two seconds. Spain’s Nuria Marques lead the 200m Individual Medley home followed by Toni Shaw from Great Britain with Keane electrifying the crowd in third position to take bronze on Friday evening.

And then, last Sunday, she put in a dominant performance in the 100m Breaststroke SB8 to deliver Ireland’s first gold medal at the Championships.

Keane dominated the race from the moment she surfaced after a perfect dive to lead the field right up until she touched the wall to win by more than five seconds.

Her medal was her second and Ireland’s third on the back of Nicole Turner’s silver from yesterday at the National Aquatic Centre event.

Keane’s emergence onto the podium was greeted with a huge Irish cheer and an already emotional occasion was made all the more special as her gold medal was presented by her long time coach, and Director of High Performance for Paralympics Ireland, Dave Malone.

“I was so nervous on the blocks,” she said afterwards. “I was shaking but I got my mind focused on the race plan and it was enough to win the medal. Once I was in there, it was about not getting ahead of myself.

“The best thing about the breaststroke is that you actually get to see the crowd when you breathe.

“They pushed me and really helped me. This means so much.”

NAC swimmer Nicole Turner, meanwhile, added to the medal haul with a silver medal in the S6 50m butterfly. She qualified for the final with the second fastest time of 37.04 seconds, putting her through alongside British world record holder Elenor Robinson.

Turner had ended fourth in the 100m breaststroke but was not to be denied in this event, outdoing her pre-race ranking of third in Europe.

She was third at the 25-metre mark but she closed fast and went ahead of Oksana Khrul in the last few metres to get the silver medal.

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