Giving Tuesday Message from 2016 Paralympic Bronze Medalist McKenna Dahl

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (November 29, 2016)

On this #GivingTuesday, 2016 Paralympic bronze medalist McKenna Dahl reflects on how someone giving back to our sport led her to fulfilling a dream in Rio this past summer.  

Give back to your sport any number of ways:

Any athlete working toward the Olympic or Paralympic Games can tell you that 2016 has been a crazy year, and I’d like to tell you about my story.

When I was six years old, I attended a summer camp for kids with disabilities. The purpose of this camp was to show these kids what kinds of outdoor activities were available to them, and to teach kids to overcome any obstacle that stood in their way. It was at Camp Access that I was introduced to competitive shooting, and the life lessons I learned at camp have pushed me to pursue my wildest dreams.

I entered the shooting world not knowing what to expect, and quickly dove head first into this whole new opportunity. What I first noticed was the overwhelming sense of community that I felt. Everyone welcomed you with open arms and encouraged you to broaden your horizons. Keeping an open mind allowed you to learn more about the sport and choose what techniques would work the best for you. I loved that it was a personal experience, but everyone helped you along the way. By the end of my first year, I was hooked.

Flash forward a few years, and I can now truly look back and appreciate all the hard work that every single person in the USA Shooting family puts forth. Athlete or not — you play a role in our success. Twenty athletes were named to the Olympic Shooting Team and were bound for Rio in the beginning of August. These 20 athletes had spent many hard years training for the opportunity of a lifetime. They had the honor of representing the United States on the world’s stage…

Two weeks after the Olympics ended, the Paralympics started. The Paralympic Shooting Team was a team of firsts. We doubled the team we had in London with five athletes, including three females. And then a week before we left for the Games, we had the opportunity to add three more athletes…I was honored to win bronze in R5 (10m Air Rifle Prone). As a team, we made more progress and growth in the last four years than ever before. It was one of the best moments of my life, and I felt so blessed to be able to represent USA Shooting and the United States at such a high level.

Through the whirlwind of activity at the Games, I think my favorite part — besides the medal — was taking a few minutes to step back and reflect on the last four years. What I remember the most is how thankful I was for each person who had helped me along the way. I know it is such a cliché, but it could not be more true. Without the support systems around every athlete, we could not be successful. Every moment in our lives, and every person we meet along the way, help shape the people we grow up to be. I’m thankful for the doors that were opened and opportunities I’ve had in life that have put me on the journey I am on today. I hope that every person knows that they have the power to push through any obstacle that stands in their way to achieve their wildest dreams. Thank you again for supporting USA Shooting and Team USA in our journeys this year and helping us become better people and athletes.

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