Ellen Keane lands her crowning glory with a gold to remember in Tokyo

26-year-old made her Paralympics debut in 2008 and finally wins biggest prize of all

Family and friends of Ellen Keane have been celebrating the 26-year-old Clontarf woman's gold medal win in the SB8 100m Breaststroke final of the Paralympics. Video: Ronan McGreevy

 

Ellen Keane, Paralympic champion, a lifetime achievement in a lifetime best time, in winning the gold medal in the SB8 100m Breaststroke final. The 26-year-old Clontarf woman produced a stunning performance, by turns composed, powerful and technically astute to win Ireland’s first medal at the Tokyo Paralympics.

It’s a beautiful upgrade on the bronze she won in the same event in Rio, five years ago, in this her fourth Games since making her debut in Beijing (2008). Keane won her heat in the morning when she beat New Zealand’s Sophie Pascoe to the touch and repeated the outcome in the final.

Second after 50 metres, she timed her finish beautifully to eke out a crucial advantage in the final 10 metres in a time that knocked two seconds off her personal best; it is the first occasion she’s gone under one minute and 20 seconds.

In the immediate aftermath she struggled to come to terms with her new found status. “I don’t think it has fully sunk in yet. When I dove in, my goggles filled up with water and I thought that maybe that was a good thing because I couldn’t see where the girls were around me; just on the turn I saw Sophie (Pascoe) a little bit.

“I just had a gameplan in mind and I stuck to that. The last thing that my coach said before I went in, ‘if I need to push you in a wheelchair home,’ I want those legs wrecked. And that’s exactly what I did.”

Gold medal winner Ellen Keane between silver medalist Sophie Pascoe from New Zealand (L) and Russian bronze medalist Adelina Razetdinova. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Gold medal winner Ellen Keane between silver medalist Sophie Pascoe from New Zealand (L) and Russian bronze medalist Adelina Razetdinova. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

She elaborated on that gameplan, which was primarily focused on swimming under 1.20 rather than being overly fixated on the competition. “I tend to rush my stroke when I want to go fast. I am a strong person so if I start to rush my stroke I don’t get any power from my legs. It was more being long, strong, controlled and keeping my strokes as streamlined as possible.”

It seems a lifetime ago that the 13-year-old Keane took to the pool in Beijing in her first Paralympics. “That was so long ago. To be honest I thought I would have won a gold medal a long time ago. It did get to me throughout the years. Having that break and time off, made me miss the sport and fall in love with the sport again.

“I knew coming here that it was an opportunity to enjoy it and see what I am really capable of; I didn’t put any pressure on myself for a medal, I just wanted a PB (personal best time). Even when I finished I turned to the girls and said it only took me eight years to get a PB. There we go.

“I want to take this opportunity to say ‘hi’ to my family who are stuck at home. I know they did get up at 3am to watch me race (in the heat). I am really grateful to them and all their support. I am collecting badges for my dad.”

There is another who she’s really missing. “As long as my dog is okay; I was looking at videos of my dog saying ‘it’ll all be worth it when I come home.’ He’s Denny, a little sausage dog. He’s getting on really well in my parents’ (house); I hope he’ll come home.”

There will be plenty looking forward to the return of Ellen Keane, Paralympic champion.

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