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Ellen Keane frustrated by belittling of the Paralympics

Keane Paralympics

Speculation surrounding the status of the Tokyo Games continues to dominate headlines with many outlets reporting earlier this week that the Olympics will go ahead later this year.

Deep inside such articles, you will find references to the Paralympics and their status for 2021.

Three-time Paralympian Ellen Keane is not the first to voice her frustration at the Games being an afterthought, and probably won’t be the last.


Ellen Keane: “It’s very frustrating. The Olympics doesn’t happen without the Paralympics.”

“In the article what the PM actually says is: “we are holding the Olympics and Paralympics this summer”, she tweeted on Tuesday. “Could someone explain to me why “and Paralympics” wasn’t included in the headline?”

Speaking at the official announcement of Allianz’s eight-year worldwide partnership with the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, Keane expanded on her grievances about the perception of Para sports.

“It’s very frustrating. The Olympics doesn’t happen without the Paralympics, the Olympics has never happened without the Paralympics following after, since the Paralympics began.

“And the fact that the people responsible for reporting on sport seem to love to exclude Paralympics is really frustrating and it takes away from all the hard work that Paralympians do. Paralympians do exactly the same as Olympians – we wait four years, every four years our one opportunity comes around.

“We train day in, day out, we work just as hard. There are still Paralympians in Ireland or para-athletes in Ireland who haven’t qualified yet, just as some Olympic athletes or athletes trying to go to the Olympics haven’t qualified yet. And they’re doing all they can to try and hit that qualifying time”.

“It just belittles everything that we try and achieve.”

“I think when people exclude Paralympics from the Olympics, it just belittles everything that we try and achieve and strive for as the Paralympic movement. It’s often put into the same category as Special Olympics – but the Special Olympics and the Paralympics are two different things.

“The Paralympics isn’t about participating, it’s about competing and, as good, as great as the Special Olympics is, it’s about participation, whereas Paralympics is about trying to do everything you possibly can to take that gold medal and break that world record and when it’s excluded, it’s just so frustrating for me.

“It excludes, it invalidates everything I try and achieve.

“Yesterday at training, I threw up after training because I’ve worked so hard. And, when you don’t include that, you don’t validate any of the hard work and you make it seem a little less and it’s not.”


“There are too many people in the media who love to exclude it and it really, really annoys me.”

While the 25-year-old is first and foremost an athlete, she is also an ambassador for Para sports on a mission to normal the inclusion of people with disabilities in every aspect of society.

Keane believes the media have a role to play in that mission also by placing the Paralympic Games on the same pedestal as the Olympics.

“What the Paralympic movement tries to do, it’s not just about sport, it is high performance, but it’s not just about sport, it’s about showing the world what people with disabilities can do and how high achieving they can be.

“If you choose to include Paralympics, you’re giving other people an opportunity to reach their goals and to be high achievers.

“There are too many people in the media who love to exclude it and it really, really annoys me.”


Tokyo 2021 speculation.

While talk rumbles on as to whether the Games will go ahead or not this summer, Keane and the rest of her Irish teammates continue to prepare as best they can within the restrictions. In fact, she is setting some of her best times over their short course internal competitions.

However, people’s opinions on the status of the Games is doing little to help matters.

“I don’t mind when the media ask because obviously they have a job to do and they have to report on it and get an athlete’s perspective and it is a question being asked. I get more frustrated when my friends, family, or just the general public who don’t know me ask.

“It’s not even asking, it’s an assumption and they just tell you that it’s not going ahead and you’re like ‘oh thank you for just dismissing all my hard work and pawning it off and pretending it’s not important!’ That is hard.”

For now, Keane continues to look for the silver lining in the situation. She will be ready to compete no matter what the format of the Games.

“When something this terrible is going on in the world it makes you realise what’s important to you and how much you love your sport and how much it means to you. The country is going through such a hard time, imagine how lovely it would be to go and represent Ireland and come back with a medal. Imagine giving that to the country so that’s something that pushes me as well.”


Allianz Paralympic ambassador Ellen Keane pictured at the official announcement of Allianz’ eight-year worldwide partnership with the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, building on a collaboration with the Paralympic movement since 2006. For more information go to

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Author: Marisa Kennedy

Marisa is a Digital Journalist with Pundit Arena. You can contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter