Ellen Keane has opened up on her frustration at what she describes as "a flawed system" in Paralympic swimming.

The Dubliner competed at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games when she was just 13, made three separate finals in London four years later, and then claimed a memorable SB8 100m breaststroke bronze in Rio 2016.

Still only 24, she is set to compete at her fourth Paralympic Games in Tokyo next summer, and is already a seasoned competitor at elite level.

Speaking to The W Podcast, Keane reflected on her journey and highlighted what she believes is a major issue in her sport. 

"I was watching the Para Athletics European Championships a few weeks ago and I was even confused (by the classification process)," she said. 

"To try and make it as fair as possible, para athletes compete against people with similar disabilities to them. For swimming, S1 to S10 would be a physical disability, S1 being the most disabled and S10 being the least disabled. 

"I'm in S9 and I'm missing my arm from below the elbow. S11 to S13 is visual impairment. S11 would be completely blind, S13 would be a little bit visually impaired.

"S14 would be an intellectual impairment. It's kind of like boxing in terms of the weight categories. There's a certain cut-off point and that's where it is.

"I know myself I've been up and down a bit based on...  a quarter of a centimeter of my arm was the difference between me and a medal in London. I was in the higher classification in London.

"They allowed me to bring in an X-ray that showed they were measuring from the wrong space in 2015 so I got put back down."

World record holder Brock Whiston is currently the swimmer to beat in Keane's category.

The English woman has hemiplegia, which causes weakness down one side of the body. She has both arms and legs. 

"A lot of questions have been asked, a lot of people aren't happy with the classification system"

"Since Rio they changed the whole system to make it as fair as possible," said Keane.

"It's been difficult. A lot of questions have been asked, a lot of people aren't happy with the classification system at the moment. 

"They reclassified Brock Whiston. Last year I was European champion and I was world number one until April. Then she got put into my classification. It's the system, the system is flawed.

"They base the classification off one swim they see the athlete in and it's a swim that everyone knows is happening so things can be manipulated.

"I'm not saying she did manipulate it but if you were to it's kind of easier to do because you know when the race is going to be.

"They based it off that one swim they watched her do in April. Then they confirmed (her category) until 2021.

"After that swim she broke the world record by four seconds. She went on to become world champion. So many questions have been asked about the system because... a lot of athletes are slipping through that."

Keane also spoke about her compatriot Ailbhe Kelly's decision to retire in September. Kelly, 20, competed in the S8 category but called it a day largely due the her frustration with the system. 

"There are athletes like Ailbhe who was clearly in the wrong classification," Keane added.

"Unfortunately that's one of the reasons why Ailbhe retired.

"I trained with her every day. She's such a hard worker. She was getting PBs, pushing herself, she was such a committed, dedicated athlete, but she was getting nowhere because of the classification she was in.

"She retired a year out from the Paralympic Games because she was sick of coming last. They system is flawed. People are getting through the cracks."

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