Aer Lingus paralympic swimmer Ellen Keane showed her promise on the Road to Rio in 2016 with a sterling set of performances in the pool at the Paralympic Swimming World Championships in Montreal.
Taking part in a total of five events — the 50m and 100m freestyle, the 100m butterfly, 100m breaststroke and 200m Individual medley — Keane returned to Ireland this week with two bronze medals in the 100m butterfly S9 and the 100m breaststroke, as well as plaudits for her showings in every event.
In the 100m breaststroke, Keane’s good start saw her turn in fourth place after 50m, just .01 of a second behind Canada’s Katarina Roxon.
Keane then pushed hard for the last 50m past Roxon, ensuring her the bronze medal in a season’s best time of 1:23.74, knocking 1.35 seconds off her heat time of 1:25.09.
“I can’t believe it,” said Keane after that race. “I was a bit worried because I knew the British girl next to me had swum a 1:25 in the heats too but when I turned I saw she was behind and thought just go for it. I was getting tired but I just kept going.
“I’m so happy, I just don’t think I can describe how it feels.”
Keane was well set going in to the 100m butterfly, having recorded a swim of 1:13.18 in her heat, just .03 of a second off her lifetime best of 1:13.15 which she swam at the Paralympic Games in London in 2012.
Swimming in lane 3 in the final Keane swam a massive personal best taking over 1.5 seconds off her previous best and touched in 1:11.55 to secure the bronze ahead of Russia’s Irina Grazhdanova.
Delighted with her second medal, Keane said: “It feels amazing to end the competition like this. To do such a big personal best felt so nice, this is unreal. I’m so happy.”
Head of Paralympic Swimming Dave Malone was delighted with the team’s overall performance over the seven days of swimming in Montreal.
“Realistically, we had set our stall at four medals coming out here, and to exceed that [with eight medals overall] is beyond what we expected. It’s the first year of our Rio cycle and a good perspective of where we’re at in terms of world competition.
“This is the biggest medal haul we’ve ever had from a Paralympic swim meet and to get five of our athletes out of a six-strong team to come home with medals is absolutely fantastic. I think it shows the strength within the team place and this gives us a great platform to drive on towards Rio,” said Malone.