She’s broken provincial and national swim records. She’s competed at the Rio Paralympics. She’s only fourteen years old.
Danielle Dorris of Moncton, New Brunswick was Canada’s youngest swimmer at this year’s Rio Paralympics. Amazingly, Danielle began competitive swimming just four years ago.
“Soccer used to be my sport. The season was only through the summer and during part of the fall and I was getting bored with it. It was my dad who suggested I work on swimming lessons,” said Danielle. “I was having so much fun I jumped into competitive swimming after three months."
Danielle was born with only a portion of her arms and competes in the 100-m butterfly, 200-m individual medley, and 100-m backstroke.
When Danielle attended the Olympic & Para-swimming Trials in Toronto this past spring, her parents and coach expected it to be a learning experience.
“Our focus wasn’t on Danielle qualifying for Rio,” said Ryan Allen, Danielle’s coach. “We were working towards gearing up for Tokyo in 2020."
Danielle earned a spot on the team as Canada’s youngest Paralympic swimmer, ever. The qualification came weeks before the Rio Olympics and Danielle’s family needed sponsorship support to help with the cost of travel. J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI) stepped up to help.
“The financial help from JDI had a big impact on Danielle’s parents being able to attend her competition,” said Ryan Allen. “To have my mom and dad there was really important - it helps make a supportive environment for a young athlete."
Danielle’s coach describes her as a teen who enjoys the camaraderie of swim practice. “But when competition comes, she has the unique ability to focus like an elite athlete,” tells her coach. “She competes against athletes double and triple her age.”
Danielle says she’s glad to have sport in her life. She encourages everyone to be active, even if it’s not through competitive sport. “So many kids go home and spend the evenings on their phone. It’s good to have a sport. It clears my head. I’m not focused on what’s happened. Just what’s in front of me.”
Danielle thanked JDI for the sponsorship, “Thank you on behalf of my whole family,” expressed Danielle. “It’s very much appreciated and it helps so much.”
What’s next for Danielle?
“Short-term I have a competition in Miami in December for the Pan Ams. Long-term? I’m aiming for the Paralympics in Tokyo 2020. Mainly for the sushi,” Danielle says with a laugh, “but also for the competition."
More on Danielle’s journey: listen to Danielle’s interview with CBC before the Rio Paralympics and read her Swim Canada profile here.