Being born with a severe disability and undergoing numerous surgeries has not stopped a Salmon Arm girl from pushing forward and discovering what she loves — being in the water.
Maggie Manning, 14, was born with severe bilateral hip dysplasia, which means she’s essentially had to grow up without hips.
Her condition makes tasks such as walking difficult and painful, but Manning has found that competitive swimming is not only something she enjoys, but it doesn’t add to the struggles of her disability.
“It’s been hard because I haven’t been able to do all the things that my friends can do,” said Manning. “But it’s made me who I am and I’m proud of that.”
Manning, who has always had a love for sports, tried swimming on a whim for the first time last year and instantly knew she had found her calling.
“When I’m in the water, I’m just like everyone else,” she says.
Manning has gone through 10 surgeries to reconstruct her hips, which have constantly put a damper on her passion for sports.
“The surgeries have been hard to cope with,” says Manning, who had to give up playing ringette due to the complications of her disability.
Playing as goalie, Manning would have to re-learn to skate after each surgery and, eventually, it was too much work to keep her eight-year old ringette career going.
“I was kind of disappointed,” said Manning, who also really enjoys soccer and biking.
Despite the disappointment, she loves swimming which, unlike other sports she’s tried, is good for her joints and helps her muscles grow stronger.
After discovering her love of the water, she quickly paired up with coach Jana Montgomery and headed to a swim meet in Edmonton in November.
She brought home three bronze and one silver medal and qualified for the B.C. Para-swimming Provincials in Kamloops in January. There she won a number of gold medals.
“Maggie is a determined girl, full of grit and athleticism,” said Montgomery. “She’s found her niche and her outlet.”
Manning said her favourite part of swimming events is getting to meet people with the same disability as her.
From provincials, Manning was selected for Team BC to attend the PARA West Camp in Richmond. The camp consisted of seminars on nutrition and goal setting, and lots of training time in the water.
“It was a lot of fun and a great experience to learn,” she says.
Manning likes the way swimming has all the challenges of a team sport, but it’s also very individualized.
“Swimming is my way to feel not different than everybody else,” she says, noting that she likes to see herself improve.
With dreams of making it onto the Canadian Paralympic team, Manning would be thrilled to compete at either or both the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 and the Tokyo Games in 2020.
Her next event will be the Long Course Provincial Championships in Victoria, July 3 to 6, where she will be competing to reach the national qualifying time standard.
“I’m really hopeful that I will get my national time,” said Manning. “I’m only 0.04 seconds off.”