For two years she had dodged it, but in the end Covid-19 came calling. There’s no good time to be sentenced to a week of isolation, but for Paralympic champion Ellen Keane, this sure is an inconvenient one.
It’s just 12 days until the Para Swimming World Championships in Madeira, Portugal, and Keane is heading into her seventh day of confinement, hoping her antigen tests start coming up negative so she can get back in the pool. Training had been ticking along well of late, with Keane’s foray in Dancing with the Stars behind her and her sole focus on putting in the hard yards to prepare for another golden swim in the SB8 breaststroke. She was due to fly out with the Irish team today but remains stuck in isolation, waiting for two negative tests.
As for the toll it’s taken? “I’m actually okay,” says Keane, who was announced as a Dublin City Council Sports Ambassador. “I keep having to clear my throat but generally I’ve been fine. I do struggle a bit with the fatigue. It’s not ideal. I don’t know how it’s going to affect the result.”
Whenever she’s cleared to train, Keane will follow a return-to-sport protocol that will see her closely monitor her heart rate both at rest and during sessions.
She’s 27 now and has been competing at Paralympic level for more than half of her life, making her debut at the 2008 Beijing Games at just 13. But Keane has no plans to leave this all behind before the Paris Games in 2024. “I remember in the lead-up to Tokyo I was questioning whether I’d retire and then as soon as finished my final race I said, ‘Nah, I need to go to Paris, I need to do this one more time.’
“As an older athlete I can fully appreciate what it takes and the privileged position I’m in, knowing my body is still able to keep going. Some athletes can’t keep going through no fault of their own.
“So I want to do it for them and I also want to do it for myself – to have no regrets when I do step away.”