Home is where the heart is for Paralympic champion Danielle Dorris

Canadian Paralympic Committee

August 03, 2023

Moncton Para swimmer finds best path for her to succeed

Danielle Dorris

TORONTO – A focus on mental health and a commitment to family have been key factors in Canadian Para swimmer Danielle Dorris’s incredible international success over the past two seasons.  

The now 20-year-old burst on the international stage at the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2021. She won gold and set a world record in the S7 50m butterfly and also took silver in the 100 backstroke. She repeated the performance a year later at the world championships in Portugal. Her time in the 50 fly was a meet record.

Up to the end of the 2021 season, Dorris only had one coach in Ryan Allen, who she connected with at age 11. Last year, she decided to move to Montreal to train at Swimming Canada’s High Performance Centre.

However, the Centre was going through some changes and Dorris preferred stability and being close to her family back in Moncton.

“I’m a very family driven person,” said Dorris at the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s content summit in Toronto in March. “I thrive off of them and I think being away from them last year was very difficult on my mental health.”

Discovering what works best for her to succeed and be happy, she has since moved back home to Moncton and is thriving, training once again with Allen.

“[I went] home where I’ll know I’ll be happy, and my mental health will be better since my family is around. I’ll have my old coach back, who is also part of that support system.”

Dorris, born with underdeveloped arms, was discovered by Janet Dunn, Swimming Canada’s Para swimming performance pathway coach, when she was just 11.

Dunn paired Dorris with Allen, who had just finished school and was looking to enhance his coaching resume. Just two years later, Dorris was on the 2016 Paralympic team, the youngest ever Canadian swimmer to compete at the Games.

“We clicked so easily,” said Dorris about Allen. “He was in his twenties when we met, and he saw potential in me. I knew then that relationship would be very strong and last a lifetime.”

By the Tokyo Games, Dorris was ready to conquer.

“Our mentality was like ‘oh you’re pretty close to this world record’,” she said of her thoughts heading into Tokyo. “We had the very goal like ‘you can do this, let’s go for it’.

“I went over what we thought we were going to do, with a 32.99 world record, which is pretty incredible. We were beyond proud and it’s definitely a record that I think will be long standing.”

It still stands today.

After her gold medal and world record performance in the women’s S7 50m butterfly at the Tokyo Games, Dorris requested that Allen present her with the medal at the podium ceremony.

The entire Moncton community was also beaming with pride as her performances were trumpeted throughout the province of New Brunswick. She received a rousing welcome home during a meet and greet at the Moncton Farmers Market as she signed autographs and took photos with the medals with her numerous admirers

“I’m really pleased to represent Moncton,” she said. ‘’It shows that someone from a small town can achieve something big.”

It was all capped a few weeks later by being named New Brunswick’s female athlete of the year for 2021, the first time an athlete with a disability won the award. Allen was named the province’s male coach of the year.

Whether she is in or out of the pool, Dorris has already shown she is a trailblazer in sport.

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