SASKATOON – Four years ago, Samantha Ryan considered herself a “below average” swimmer but those days are long gone. The 16-year-old Saskatoon product will represent Canada at the Paralympic Games this summer in Brazil.
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“To think that a few years ago, I wasn’t even qualifying for our provincials,” said Ryan. “I never would have guessed that in a few years I would be on Team Canada, going to Rio for the Paralympics. It’s crazy to think about, but I’m really excited for what’s to come.”
READ MORE: Saskatoon para-swimmer Samantha Ryan heading to Rio
Ryan lives with a condition known as drop foot, which basically means that she has difficulty controlling the muscles in her feet. Because of her condition, Ryan never dreamed of one day becoming an elite athlete. That changed when she discovered para-swimming.
“She came to the pool everyday and really enjoyed it, and that’s really the first step,” said Ryan’s swimming coach Steven Hitchings. “She really enjoyed seeing herself improve, so it’s easy to build when you have someone that loves what they’re doing.”
Ryan’s thirst for competition fuelled her ascension up Canada’s para-swimming ranks. In 2015, she claimed silver in the 100m butterfly at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto.
On April 8, Ryan pushed her career to new heights by setting a new personal best in the 100m butterfly at the Canadian para-swimming trials. However, Ryan’s first place performance didn’t necessarily guarantee her a spot on Canada’s para-swim team for the upcoming 2016 Paralympic Games. She had to wait two more days to find out if she’d made the cut.
“We were all sitting in a bit group waiting to get the emails, and a few people got theirs before me and I was like, ‘oh my gosh I don’t think I made it,’” said Ryan. “I was starting to freak out, but then I got the email and I was just so happy.”
Ryan will spend the next four-and-a-half months training for the Paralympic Games, which kick off in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sept. 7.