No limits being little
Two years ago, a Burnsview Secondary Grade 8 basketball coach did a double-take when Danielle Kisser, standing all of four feet tall, showed up to try out for the team.
Despite his preconceptions, she did well and made the team. During the following season, some opposing players dismissed her at first, leaving her unguarded, at their peril. It turned out she was a tough competitor, ready to duke it out.
"As soon as I scored, they got embarrassed, so they put an extra few guys on me."
For Kisser, it's okay for people, whether adults or children, to do double-takes or to stare when they first see her. It's ever better to come over and say hi and to ask questions.
The now-four-foot-one 16-year-old doesn't bite – though nowadays, she swims like a shark.
The Grade 10 Burnsview Secondary student, a short-statured para-swimmer at Delta Sungod Swim Club, holds three records and is 15th in the world in the women's S6 category.
Last March, she missed making the London Paralympic Games by just 0.98 seconds.
"Now it's a four-year slog to get to Rio," notes her mom Sherri.
In the meantime, in April, Kisser will try out for the nationals in Minneapolis, Minn., and hopes to compete in the Canada Summer Games in August in Sherbrooke, Que.
In regional competitions, Danielle, who has a form of dwarfism, competes alongside regular-statured athletes. In higher-level races, she goes up against competitors with varying mobility disabilities, but all categorized as S6 (the lower the number, the more severe the disability.)
Only at sanctioned swim meets – provincial and higher – do the world rankings take effect. Kisser recently raced to what would have been a sixth-in-the-world spot had that race's numbers been official.
Danielle started competitive swimming at age 11 at the suggestion of a coach with para-swimming coaching experience.
Her competitive nature now keeps her aiming within.
"I don't focus on the other swimmers," she says of regional heats. "I know they're going to beat me. It's me and the clock."
Kisser trains eight times, five days a week at the Sungod Aquatic Centre. An average workout is 3,000 metres, at times all-out.
"I made the (basketball) team again this year, but I had to say no because it conflicted too much with swimming. I had to concentrate on my bigger goals."
And her goals, which are often reached, are the products of capitalizing on the things she can control – not her stature, but technique, strength and stamina.
"She's got an internal desire to be the best," says her mom. "You don't do these things for other people, you do them for yourself. That's the only way you get up (at 5 a.m.) every morning."
Danielle, who's comfortable with her disability and abilities, will tell her story this Saturday (Jan. 26) as a "human book" at the City Centre Library (10350 University Dr.)
Danielle will be among 20 people who share their unique stories from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the library's second-annual Human Library Project Event.
She'll also make visitors aware of The Society for Short Stature Awareness and its website, www.littlepeopleofbc.org/
To reserve a one-on-one conversation with your "book," call 604-598-7426. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/Z1W2Jv