TORONTO – Although her results at the Para-swim trials were not what she had hoped, Danielle Kisser is still standing tall, and for good reason.
Only a year and a half after undergoing major surgery to straighten her legs, Kisser broke the Canadian record Saturday morning in the S6 100m backstroke at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.
Her procedure, called a double-leg osteotomy, involved the breaking of both of her legs, and resulted in a longer and more arduous recovery period than she had anticipated.
“I think my love of competing is what brought me back from being in a wheelchair and having double leg casts, to getting back in the pool and wanting to be back representing Canada again,” said Kisser after her 100-metre backstroke final. “It really motivated me to get back into it.”
She believes It unlikely she will qualify for the Paralympic Games in Rio later this year, but the 19-year-old says that after getting surgery out of the way, there is nothing holding her back.
“It would have been nice to see my hard work pay off now but I have no doubt it will pay off down the road,” she said. “It’s all coming together slowly.”
No stranger to overcoming adversity, Kisser won a bronze medal at the 2011 Parapan Am Games in Guadalajara Mexico, only two months after undergoing neck surgery.
Born with achondroplasia dwarfism, she sees her experience at the Para-swim trials as one of her greatest moments of victory.
“Even though I don’t think I’ll make the team, and I haven’t won any medals, or set many best times, this has been a really cool stepping stone,” she said. “Coming back from having to re-learn how to walk and swim, just being back here in the pool is a really good accomplishment.”
A fierce competitor, Kisser says her parent’s unwavering support throughout her life, and growing up having to work harder to compete with her friends, has helped her to become the athlete she is today.
“I always tell people, walk tall through a world that wasn’t created for you and help to make one that is,” said the Parapan Am bronze medalist, who has a strong fan following. “Nobody fits in, you just have to find something you love and be the best you can be at it.”