Katie O'Brien is an Irish Parathlete and Enable Ireland Ambassador. Katie was born with spina bifida and attended Enable Ireland’s Children’s Disability services in Galway until she turned 18. Katie qualified as a vet from UCD in 2020 and now trains full-time with her sights set on representing Ireland at the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.
Katie O’Brien represents Ireland in rowing and won the bronze medal at the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Linz. Since then she has had even more success. In 2022, Katie set the world’s best time in the PR2 women’s single scull at the World Cup. She also became World Champion, claiming the gold medal at the World Championships in the Czech Republic in the single scull. Katie's latest achievement came this year when she set the overall 2km world’s best time on the rowing machine.
Katie was born with spina bifida and attended Enable Ireland’s Children’s Disability services in Galway until she turned 18. Katie qualified as a vet from UCD in 2020 and now trains full-time with her sights set on representing Ireland at the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.
“Enable Ireland has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories in Enable Ireland are being with my physiotherapist, Michelle. It was always fun. She made everything feel like we were playing a game, even though the physiotherapy and hydrotherapy was hard work.
The social side of being with a service like Enable Ireland was so important as well. I made lots of great friends there. Children and teenagers who were in a similar situation to me whether they had spina bifida or another disability. I felt the same as everyone else and that’s an amazing feeling to have as a child.
I especially enjoyed the summer camps I went to with Enable. There was one in particular that was a drama camp and we did lots of acting, including making our own version of ‘Home and Away’ which we called ‘Home on the Bay’! It was so much fun and we had great craic.
I started rowing when I was 16. I watched the Paralympics in 2012 and decided this was something I wanted to try for. Initially, I was interested in horse riding but they called me back after I tried out for rowing, and I took part in a rowing training camp. That was the start of it for me!
Since February 2022, I have been a full-time athlete and am training to represent Ireland at the 2024 Paralympics in Paris. There is no singles event at the Paralympics, so my goal is to row the double scull. Before we get to the Paris Paralympics, we have to qualify via the World Championships, which take place this September in Serbia. That’s what I am working towards right now in training.
As a teenager my disability was almost something I was embarrassed about. I wanted to fit in so badly and just be the same as everyone else. Although I think this is something every teenager feels! I didn’t want to wear my splints and tried hiding them as best I could. If I could go back now and talk to my teenage self, I would say ‘Be proud of who you are, difference and all, it makes me you who you are’. My advice to other teenagers maybe thinking along the same lines as I was, is to just stay focused on what you CAN do and NOT what you can’t. The possibilities of what you can do are endless.
Getting involved in sport has been amazing for me, and it is everything to me. It keeps my head space in check and has given me a lot more confidence in myself. I’ve really found my community in sport.”