Sports have always played a big role in the life of 14-year-old Danielle Kanas. Since the age of eight, she has participated in track and field, and even started playing soccer earlier than that. “Sports have helped me become more confident and it helps me show that I’m just as good as someone with no disabilities,” Kanas said.
Danielle was adopted from China by JoAnne Kanas. As an infant, she acquired an infection that resulted in a traumatic amputation of her left arm, below the elbow. “I don’t think about it,” she said. “I always find a way around.”
Track and field have clearly become a passion for her. She has been competing in a number of track events, including running the 100, 200, and 400 m. “I just started the 800 too.” In the field events, she has done long jump and competes in the discus, javelin, and shot put. “I love the throwing events.” Danielle has been an active member of her middle school track and field team and is active in the Junior Paralympic Team for PTSB, Paralympic Sport Tampa Bay. She also swims, but it is her least favorite. “It is not as fun or exciting for me.”
Over the years, Danielle has won several medals at various regional sports competitions and even broken records in her age group. But she is constantly working on improving her performance. “With long jump, I just got past three meters,” a goal she had set for herself.
With the throwing events, she is focusing on her technique. “I am throwing the same. I am not reaching my goals in distance.”
Danielle says she is doing well with her spin, when it comes to the discus and shotput. Those two sports, though, pose some challenges. “I don’t have access to a pit, so it is hard to practice,” she said.
With the javelin, she is centering attention around mastering the run. “I want to further develop my power and my stride.” Specifically, her coach has her paying particular attention to the penultimate step, the last step before the spear leaves the hand. In terms of success, she knows immediately after the throw if she performed well. “I can tell by the feeling of it.”
This past summer, Danielle competed in her first Angel City Games, which is organized by a chapter of Disabled Sports USA. She went as part of her Paralympic sport club team and competed in track and field events as well as swimming. Events like this one provide more competition, allowing her to gauge where she stands in the different sports. “It was a good experience to compete against other top athletes, including some Paralympians.” She would place first in throwing in her category and second in running.
Another valuable opportunity at events like the Angel City Games is the chance to work with experts through the clinics that are held onsite. In Los Angeles, Danielle loved it when Paralympian Cody Michael Jones came over and offered tips and suggestions.
Following the Angel City Games, she also competed in her sixth Junior Nationals, which was held in Minnesota this year. She is a member of Disabled Sports USA’s Elite Team, receiving a 2019 Track & Field training grant. Among the many things Danielle wants to accomplish, two of her goals include competing at the Paralympic Games and being a member of her high school track team.
To reach those goals, she obviously trains regularly. She uses a prosthetic arm during workouts to make sure the left arm gets worked out as well. Once a week, Danielle see a performance trainer. In addition, she is beginning to focus on the nutrition science centered around performance. She is a high protein eater. “I am trying out new foods that I know will help me.”
She lives by a quote from professional football player Shaquem Griffin, whom she admires a lot, which is: “Please don’t tell me what I can’t do.”