“A person often meets his/her destiny on the path they took to avoid it.” This quote perfectly depicts the journey of a certain 23-year-old gorgeous Paralympic swimmer, Ellen Keane. Born with a vestigial left arm, Keane’s rise from the deck is nothing short of any brilliance.
At the tender age of 23, Keane has already represented Ireland in as many as three Paralympics. First at in Beijing at 13 then in London at 17 and the recent being in Rio at 21. Termed as too young to compete in Beijing and London, she knew the medal was up for grab in Rio and she indeed delivered what was promised. Yes, a bronze in 100m breaststroke was achieved.
However easy that might sound to us as a layman, it is Keane who knows the hard work she had to put in to be where she is now.
During her early teens, Keane used to stand away from people because of her amputated arm. “I was never going to have two hands despite the endless letters to Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy,” Ellen was quoted by Irish Times. “I love who I am. I love my body and my arm is my lucky fin. Everyone has an insecurity. But that is what makes you who you are. I know it is scary but I dare you to try. I dare you to take the first step. Like I did.”
Wearing long sleeves, she thought she had found a solution to it, but little did she know that accepting the truth of life would guide her to the glory.
And Ellen leaves no chance of laughing about it anymore.
Being arguably Ireland’s one of greatest Paralympians, Ellen’s training is as painstaking as you can guess. She has been training with a prosthetic arm for the past four years, but this sometimes has come at a certain price. Several alterations were made to that prosthetic piece as “loads of blood vessels burst” when she moved her arm.
“I came in one day and said, ‘I need a gym prosthetic’. I was their guinea pig for a prosthetic that was going to support 100kg without breaking, falling off or [me] damaging myself.
“We train at the same level as Olympics but there are obstacles that get in our way. I could be in the gym and my [prosthetic] arm could break and that would be my gym session for the day, for the week, if I am not able to get it fixed.
“They cost about €10,000, so you can really just have one. It would probably take six months to a year to get one made again.”
The categories of disability are graded as S1 to S10, with the former being the most disabled while the latter being least. Competing in breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and individual medley, Ellen tussles in S9, SB8 and SM9. Furthermore, adding to her already long list of achievements, Ellen won Ireland’s first gold medal at the World Para Swimming Allianz European Championships back in August.