From learning to swim at age 2, being Ireland’s youngest Olympian at age 13 in Beijing and winning a bronze medal at last year’s Olympics in Rio the sky is certainly the limit for para-swimmer Ellen Keane. Ellen is a trailblazer not just for athletes but females worldwide. Her Ted Talk is a must watch and you will discover how refreshingly down to earth a person she is, how she has embraced her differences and become a brilliant role model for all. Next summer’s European Championships in Dublin is her current goal and will hopefully result in further medals for Ellen and all the Irish aquatic team.
Tell us about your first or favourite sporting memory?
Winning my Olympic medal in Rio was a very special moment for me and something that will always stand out in my mind but the homecoming was even better and is my favourite memory. I was literally travelling non-stop for 23 hours when my Dad collected me at Dublin airport and drove me to Clontarf Rugby Club for a homecoming. All I could think of was sleep but once I got to the clubhouse, seeing all my supporters, family and friends was really, really special. Getting to share my medal and glory with them was just the best feeling in the world!
What advice would you give to a young aspiring athlete in your sport?
Work hard as talent alone won’t get you anywhere! You do have to prioritise your sporting ambitions over your social life. Athletes are constantly learning and developing so be willing to put in plenty of practice early in your career.
As a para-athlete and previous Olympian what advice would you give to someone who was dealing with a tough time in their life or setback in their sport?
There is always light at the end of the tunnel, keep working consistently and stay focused on your goal. Remember why you are really passionate and care about the sport or situation you are in.
What emphasis do you put on food and diet relating to your performance or do you think food and diet has any importance for your performance?
Through my studies and from my own personal experience food and diet is very important to my pool performances. For me I really focus on post-exercise nutrition. I ensure I eat something immediately once I step foot outside of the pool and again once I have reached my car. I find that a lot of athletes focus on protein and carbohydrates which are important but vitamins and minerals are also required to obtain the best from these sources too.
How do you find the time to plan and prepare meals or do you eat out every day whilst juggling your Culinary Entrepreneurship studies in DIT and an International swimming career?
I always try to meal prep and batch cook so that there is something in my fridge ready to go. Frozen berries and vegetables I find are brilliant for a busy person. When I am really busy, I do eat out but will always try to choose healthy options with plenty of vegetables.
Give us some insight into your typical competition day food?
Competition day food can be really hard for me especially when I compete early in the morning as I don’t like to swim with a full stomach. First thing in the morning I tend to opt for toast. Once I arrive at the pool, I have a fruit smoothie with a cereal bar and try to keep munching in small amounts until race time. I will keep a close eye on my hydration and always pack some Lucozade wherever I travel to compete.
Post-competition is where I will have a big meal and after a final or big race I will definitely opt to eat out with pizza being my ultimate treat.
What is your favourite type of food to eat or dish to cook?
I love porridge!! Everyone thinks I just say this because I am an athlete and it’s healthy food but I seriously love porridge. I have it nearly every day. I always make it with regular milk and my favourite toppings at the moment are frozen berries, nuts and cacao powder.
Where are your favourite places to eat out in Ireland?
I love going for brunch and Camile Thai in Phibsboro has opened a restaurant that offers a Thai-inspired brunch menu. It is a bit different to your typical brunch options. Camile Thai is also my favourite takeaway as they have lots of vegetable based healthy options.