WINDSOR – With four kids, a full-time position at Muscular Dystrophy Canada, and an increasing slate of community public speaking and personal coaching gigs, Danielle Campo McLeod is certainly a busy woman.
Add to that a new medical diagnosis, and there is no shortage of excitement right now in the seven-time Paralympic medallist’s life – but Campo McLeod wouldn’t have it any other way.
It is less than two months after she was newly diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, and her treatment is already working extremely well. The 35-year-old says she is so thankful she no longer has pain and is getting stronger and stronger each day.
“You don’t define yourself by your disability, you never do. But it is a part of who you are. So as it’s changing, and I’m slowly growing out of the identity I’ve known for my whole life – because there are now different things I can do, I don’t need the support of people around me, I can do a lot on my own – it’s a really unique experience to navigate what this is going to be like.”
Originally diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age two, Campo McLeod began swimming at a young age before making her first Paralympic Games as a 15-year-old. Beyond helping her healthy muscles to stay physically strong, she credits the sport for shaping her into who she is today.
“It taught me some amazing lessons about setting your goals and achieving those goals. I am the person I am today because of the experiences I got to have being on Team Canada and swimming for our country.”
“I hope everybody can find that one thing in their life that gives them that joy and passion. For me swimming was that. It was that place where I could just swim in the pool and have a bad day and work it out and get out and be in such a different headspace. It taught me how to deal with stress, and definitely how to have fun, my goodness we had a lot of fun on those teams!”
A 2010 inductee of the Windsor/Essex Sports Hall of Fame, Campo McLeod competed at the Sydney 2000 (three gold and one silver) and Athens 2004 Games (two bronze and one silver).
Though she wore gold around her neck three times, it was actually a bronze medal – in the 400m freestyle in Athens – that the University of Windsor graduate chooses as her proudest moment in the pool.
“It was a new position for me not to be on top of the podium, but really it was about finding the joy in moments that maybe the result wasn’t exactly what I expected. I really left everything I had in the pool and swam my heart out and I won that bronze medal.
“Every time I looked down at that medal, it’s like, you don’t always have to be the best, you just have to be your best. And that day, my best was bronze and that was okay.”
She looks back fondly on her moments spent in the pool and with her teammates. In the ensuing years since her retirement, she has remained connected to Paralympic sport, sharing her story with others and following the latest developments.
Moving forward, Campo McLeod is excited for what lays ahead not only in her own life but with the Paralympic Movement. And she is very much looking forward to helping others realize their dreams.
“I’m really dedicating my career path to focusing on helping people and connecting with people, to challenging them to really discover what brings them joy and what is their best and how are we going to help them achieve their best.”
The Rewind Feature Series is a set of complementary feature stories about some of the athletes featured in the Paralympic Super Series Rewind, a 10-episode digital series showcasing Canadian moments from the Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, and Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. For more information of the Paralympic Super Series Rewind, visit: Paralympic.ca/paralympic-super-series.
Previous Rewind Feature Series stories:
BEING CANADA’S FLAG BEARER AT THE PARALYMPIC GAMES AN HONOUR