SASKATOON – Samantha Ryan was 14 years old when she first donned the Maple Leaf as a member of Team Canada at the 2014 Pan-Pacific Para Swimming Championships. She has been a fixture on the national team ever since and now Ryan has a shot at competing in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s pretty cool because a few years ago I wasn’t really into all this. I was just sort of a below average swimmer,” she said.
Prince Harry meets with injured soldiers ahead of Invictus Games
Former wrestler finds new passion on skis after injury took use of right arm
Saskatchewan’s Becky Richter claims Paralympic bronze
Ryan has drop foot, a nerve disorder which prevents her from having full control of the muscles in her legs. The condition resulted from the removal of a tumour which Ryan had at birth. Now 16, she was named Saskatchewan’s 2015 Female Youth Athlete of the Year after winning a silver medal at the Para Pan-Am Games and finishing fifth at the International Paralympic Committee World Championships, where she broke her own Canadian record in the 100 metre butterfly S10.
“I feel really proud of all this and when people mention (the awards) it makes me feel proud that it’s something they ask me about, but I sort of use it as stepping stones, I guess you could say,” she said.
READ MORE: Young Moncton swimmer has her eyes on competing in Rio Paralympics
Stepping stones that Ryan hopes will lead her to Rio this summer.
“It feels really great when I’m on the podium getting the medal or when I’m receiving the award but then as soon as that’s over, it’s back to the drawing board, back to what I need to work on, and it’s all kind of part of the process for Rio and making the team.”
Steven Hitchings is the senior performance coach with the Saskatoon Goldfins Swim Club. He’s seen Ryan make big strides in her development over the past two years.
“She’s been able to build off all these experiences from the camps and take the attitude that Swimming Canada wants her to have, as being a professional athlete, and put it into our club program here,” he said.
The Goldfins have never had a swimmer compete in an Olympic or Paralympic Games. The prospect of being the first is all a bit surreal to Ryan.
“I sometimes forget that I’m part of Team Canada, but I think it would be pretty cool,” she laughed.