Ciarán Breen at the Aquatics Stadium in Rio

Ciarán Breen: ‘shake your soul’

I’m not a big believer in nationalism. I was, once. Growing up in Northern Ireland, it was a default belief system and in some ways, one necessary for psychological survival. But it’s been eight years since I left my land of birth and its image continues to shift on the ground and in my mind.

Nationalism has had and continues to have a devastating effect across the world. It’s very hard to defend at times.

The 2016 Paralympics have offered me a window into the beauty that can be created when people coalesce in support of a common cause. Decked primarily in Seleção soccer jerseys, the locals have supported their athletes with a vigour and song loud enough to shake your soul.

I’ve spent the majority of my time Rio poolside at the Aquatics Stadium, where the crowd sometimes seems to rise into the sky. Their cries for their countrymen and women led me to christen DDDs, also known as Daniel Dias Decibels. Seeing and hearing São Paulo native Dias and his beaming smile claim his 20th Paralympic medal, winning gold in the S5 50m freestyle will be one of the strongest memories I will carry with me.