Sport New Brunswick has named its Athletes of the Year and for the first time ever the male and female honorees are both from parasports. In fact, they’re both Paralympians.
Danielle Dorris is a paraswimmer from Moncton who won two gold medals and one silver at the Tokyo games.
Colin Higgins of Rothesay was one of the top point scorers on the Canadian men’s wheelchair basketball team.
Dorris said the distinction means a lot to her and she is proud to represent the province.
“It took a lot of hard work. That’s for sure,” said the 19-year-old.
Dorris had been training “non-stop” for 2020 and when the games were delayed that regimen continued.
“I didn’t have a break for pretty much two years,” she said.
She finally allowed herself a pause after Tokyo to “bask” in her success.
“I’m very happy it all paid off,” she said.
Dorris said she’s also proud of her former coach, Ryan Allen, who was named Male Coach of the Year.
Higgins described winning Athlete of the Year as a huge privilege.
“Some pretty prolific names” have won it in the past, he said.
“It’s pretty amazing to be listed among them now.”
He said the award is also a big “shout out” to people from New Brunswick who have helped him along the way – family, friends, Parasport N.B. and the wheelchair basketball community.
Higgins started playing wheelchair basketball in 2014, according to his Wheelchair Basketball Canada profile, after another local player invited him to try out, and he quickly discovered a love for the sport’s “complexity.”
He played for New Brunswick at the Canada Games the following year and made the Senior Men’s National team in 2017.
It’s a very exciting time, said Sally Hutt, executive director of Parasport New Brunswick
“We have a lot of incredible athletes. To see two para–athletes on top is incredible.”
“The competition is incredible right now and I’m very proud of our para–athletes.”
Parasport in the province is growing steadily, said Hutt, and athletes like Dorris and Higgins are leading the way.
“Wherever you are in the province, there’s a para sport for you,” she said.
Information Morning – Moncton9:35Two para athletes take top honours with Sports New Brunswick for the first time.
Dorris would like to see those opportunities more widely publicized.
“I feel parasport needs to be advertised more,” she said, “to reach kids who may not know about it.”
Dorris said she got into competitive swimming “by accident,” after finding her opportunities in soccer were limited.
Someone from parasport happened to notice her talent, and more support became available the better she performed.
Higgins said he’d have to agree.
“Growing up I was very active in the sporting community, and I really didn’t know a thing about adapted athletics.
“We are definitely missing out on some people just because exposure and education is so low,” he said.
“It’s always a challenge to do outreach,” said Hutt, adding her organization is trying to “strategically recruit.”
Dorris’s next big sport event will be trials in April in British Columbia to qualify for the next World Championships, slated for May and June.
Higgins just finished a semester at the University of Missouri, where he plays in the college system.
He’s currently training toward college nationals in March, the world championship qualifier with Team Canada this summer, and the world championships in November, planned for Dubai.