On cloud nine  | 

Paralympics hero Ellen Keane’s family 'relieved and proud' after gold medal victory

Despite not being in Tokyo, there was a big celebration in north Dublin,

Ellen Keane's proud parents Eddie and Laura celebrating outside their home in Clontarf. Photo: Sam Boal/Rolling News.ie

Ellen Keane kisses her gold medal after her SB8 100m breaststroke success in Tokyo. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Ellen's family celebrating outside their home in Clontarf: (l to r) Eddie, Philip, Hazel, Laura and Graham. Photo: Sam Boal/Rolling News.ie

Seoirse Mulgrew

Ellen Keane’s dad said she is “walking on cloud nine” after winning Ireland’s first gold medal at the Paralympics in Tokyo.

Eddie Keane said three words sum up the family’s thoughts on Ellen’s win: “Shocked, relieved, proud.”

The Clontarf swimmer claimed gold in the SB8 100 metres breaststroke final, secured her win in 1:19.93 ahead of New Zealand’s Sophie Pascoe.

Mr Keane said it was the first Paralympic Games without the family at Ellen’s side.

Despite not being in Tokyo, there was a big celebration in north Dublin, with neighbours coming to the door to offer congratulations.

“She deserved the gold medal today after what she’s been through during the pandemic, the training she took upon herself. She deserves everything she gets today,” Mr Keane said.

“After getting her personal best this morning in her heats, we thought she couldn’t do any better than that.

“If she walked away from the final with a personal best, we knew she would have been happy with that because it’s eight years since she got one. But to get a second one in the final, I tell ya, she’s walking on cloud nine tonight.

“She always speaks out about her disability and not to hide it.

“That’s her aim in life, really, to get out there and say it doesn’t matter what’s wrong with you, get out there and enjoy life and do what you want to do. She’s done what she wanted to do today .”

Mr Keane said it has been a lot different cheering on his daughter from afar.

“Because we’re here it’s just like normal days sometimes, but then it’s not a normal day because Ellen is swimming in the Paralympic Games and we should be there,” he said.

“We had our flights, hotel and tickets for the Games booked for last year and then when it was postponed for a year everyone was great.

“But then when we were told earlier on this year that there wouldn’t be any spectators, our hearts broke.

“We’re just delighted that the games went ahead and all the athletes got to do what they had to do.

“For the past few days we were thinking it’s terrible being at home because we’ve been with her for other major events since she was 13.

“We’ve been all over the world – we’ve been in South Africa, Canada and America and all the European countries.”

The family are counting down the days until they can welcome the 26-year-old Paralympian home after the Games come to an end.

“Dublin City Council were fantastic, they came out here and put up bunting and posters all around the area,” Mr Keane said.

“When she won her medal today, we were all in the sitting room watching with family and friends and then somebody said the neighbours are on the road.

“All the neighbours were around our gate clapping – we couldn’t believe it, it’s fantastic.

“We had a great day here and we’re still celebrating out the back and hopefully we’ll end up in the Pebble Beach in Clontarf maybe later on.”

Ellen took to Twitter to express her delight at winning gold after competing in her fourth Paralympic Games.

“To those who’ve said I’m the calmest gold medal winner they’ve ever seen, I’m currently sitting in the food hall by myself having a little cry. It’s finally sinking in,” she wrote.

She won bronze in Rio 2016 in the SB8 100 metres breaststroke and reached two other finals – S9 100 metres butterfly and S9 100 metres backstroke final – and recorded personal bests in both. She made her Paralympic debut at the age of 13 in 2008 in Beijing.

Ellen has a degree in culinary entrepreneurship from Dublin Institute of Technology and trains full-time at the National Aquatic Centre (NAC) in Abbotstown.

A spokesperson for Paralympics Ireland said the reaction in Tokyo to her gold has been “really positive”.

“I think all of the athletes and everyone involved knows how long Ellen has worked towards achieving this goal,” they said.

“She’s on her fourth Paralympic Games. She’s one of the most dedicated athletes across any sport, so to see her achieve this is just wonderful and it’s a great boost for the whole team.

“All of her fellow Paralympic swimmers were in the arena today to watch the moment.

“Ellen’s medal is really just an early boost that we hope will lift every athlete.”

Elsewhere, swimmer Róisin Ní Riain (16) finished sixth in the final of the S13 100 metres backstroke in a personal best time of 1:08.6.

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