Maggie Manning is no stranger to adversity or success in the sport of para-swimming.
Seventeen-year-old Manning attended a training camp with the Paralympic development swim team on Oct. 14 to 21 in Toronto.
“We really concentrated on getting good technique and adapting stuff that able-bodied swimmers do,” said Manning.
The Team Canada coaches are good at helping the para-swimmers tailor their strokes and breathing patterns, Manning explained, depending on each swimmmer’s abilities.
At the Toronto training camp, Manning reconnected with 10 of her Team Canada teammates who are close to her in age.
“Most of them I was already friends with a little bit, but I didn’t know super well. To be able to room with them and spend a whole week in close quarters was really awesome because we really grew in our friendships and our tightness,” Manning said.
“It’s a different kind of friendship than just a high school friendship because we’ve all gone through something medically challenging so we all understand each other in that way.”
Manning’s medical challenges stem from a series of surgeries she had on her hips.
“It’s been a good opportunity to keep my mobility up,” She said.
Before the surgeries, Manning was a ringette goalie, but after she found herself unable to do activities that put stress on her joints. So she took to the pool both as a sport and a form of therapy.
Swimming has been so good for Manning’s mobility that she was able to completely discontinue physiotherapy.
As she gets better and better at overcoming the effects of the surgeries on her hips, Manning will have another health issue to contend with. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a little over a month ago.
Manning is bravely facing this new diagnosis with her usual optimism and says she is very transparent about her health issues.
Her enthusiastic outlook and her experience overcoming health challenges in and out of the pool makes Manning an ideal candidate for a new role she is taking on with the Columbia-Shuswap Selkirks swim club: A coach and mentor for three new swimmers with disabilities.
“It’s always been pretty much strictly able bodied swimmers and then I started getting into it more,” she said.
Manning is pleased to see Paralympic sports grow both locally and in its representation in the media. She said she will remain an advocate for the rights of those with disabilities as there is still a lot of work to be done.
Going forward, Manning plans to continue shaving seconds from her 400-metre freestyle time, which is currently ranked in the top-10 in the world,and prepare for future international competitions.
“It was always a goal to wear the maple leaf on my cap. So its cool to have that now,” said Manning.
Possible world series events that Manning could be selected to represent Canada at will be taking place in Copenhagen, Sao Paulo, Ireland and Indianapolis – where Manning attended a world series event in June.
“Any of them would be really good,” she said.
Manning said help and encouragement from the entire Salmon Arm community has been instrumental in helping her get to where she is.
“It takes an entire community to raise an athlete, an elite athlete,”she said.