Steinbrenner High freshman representing USA in international para-athlete competition

A Hillsborough County high school freshman is training to represent the USA in an international sports competition for athletes with disabilities.

Danielle Kanas, 14, wasn’t sure about life as a track and field athlete at first, but she stuck with it. Now, six years after she started, the Steinbrenner High School freshman will soon represent the USA in the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports World Games in Thailand.

“This was new territory for me because I used to do a lot of soccer and all that,” said Kanas. “I will be competing in the shotput, discus, javelin, and I’m doing the 100 and 200 in running.”

Danielle was a baby when doctors amputated part of her arm.

“I have people asking me sometimes, do I need any help with anything and I just say, ‘No, I’m good,’” said Kanas who added that she’s not afraid to talk about her amputation with others.

She’s proving just how good she is as an athlete as part of Hillsborough County’s Paralympic Sports Club, which is a community-based program under the Paralympic division of the United States Olympic Committee.

“I’m very proud as a coach and everything else,” said Danielle’s Paralympic coach Wayne Bozeman, who is a recreational therapist with the Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation Department.

Bozeman said Danielle performed well in all of her qualifying events leading up to this moment.

“The other thing that Danielle needs now is this international competition to see where she ranks among the international people,” he said.

The crowd at the IWAS World Games will be the largest she's ever competed in front of. The competition will be held in a stadium that holds thousands.

“I’m just nervous about performing well in front of all those people,” said Kanas. “But I’ve learned to block them out and just focus on what I’m doing.”

Danielle will keep training, fine-tuning her technique, to show the world that she won't be underestimated.

“I have a prosthetic that helps me balance when I’m doing a turn in discus or when I’m running in javelin,” she said. “It’s really amazing to show how we can do the same things even more."

The IWAS World Games will be held in April in Thailand. Kanas said her performance at the competition is the next step toward her goal of becoming a Paralympic athlete.