Introducing McKenna Dahl, the youngest member of the USA Shooting Team. She is on target for Rio 2016.
Hometown: I am from outside of Seattle, Washington. But, I currently reside at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado while I am training full time.
What sport or sports do you play? Shooting is my main sport now. Before I moved out here I was on a wheelchair basketball team, a disability baseball team, and I used to swim as well.
Why did you start focusing on shooting? I was into swimming originally, and my best friend was on the team. Our dream was to go to the London 2012 Paralympic Games together for swimming. She was in a different classification than me and she was improving, but with my disability I am missing some muscles. So I just was never as fast as some of the other swimmers. Then, I was introduced to shooting and I fell in love with it. I finally realized that I could go further in shooting than I could in swimming.
What is your sports story? I got started shooting through Camp Access, a camp for children with disabilities, in Washington. The director of the camp took everyone who was over the age of 12 shooting. So the year I turned 12, I got to go shooting. A few months later, the camp director invited me to go to a competition and I ended up beating him. Then, several months later, I was invited to Paralympic training center. There I caught the attention of the national coach and was eventually able to earn a spot on the national Paralympic development team which means I have the potential to medal at a World Cup. In August 2014, I was the first female and the first American to earn a quoted spot for the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil.
What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of? Earning the quoted slot was probably one of my biggest accomplishments. That means we can send an athlete to Rio, and I am proud I earned that for our country. It was pretty cool because I did that just three months after graduating high school. I am also the youngest member on the team. Most members of the team are men who are at least 10 years older than me.
What is your workout schedule? On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I train from 8-12pm on the range shooting. Then, I brake for lunch. After lunch, I workout from 1-3 pm that is when I focus on strength and conditioning with the trainer. It might include weights, core work, and cardio. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I don’t have an afternoon workout. So I try to get in another training session on the range. In the evenings I do school work because I take on-line classes. I am studying to get my BA in business and technical management with a specialization in criminal justice. I have been thinking about becoming a lawyer.
What’s your mantra that keeps you going during tough workouts or bad days? My motivation comes from the desire to get to the dream I have been working toward since I was 12. (FYI: McKenna will be 20 on May 1st.)
What superpowers do you possess? Determination is a big one. Also, knowing that I can do anything I set my mind to. It just may take me a little more time to do it. I have learned to never give up on anything.
How would you define ability? Let me think about that for a minute that is a good question… Ability is not letting limitations define what you can do. If you can’t do something, it’s about finding another way to do it. It is working around any challenges you have.
How would you define grit? The ability to keep pushing through any bumps in the road that life throws at you. It’s never going to be perfect, but to persevere through everything.
What advice do you have for other athletes? To never give up. There will be difficult situations that you will have to work through, but you will learn a lot about yourself as you keep pushing forward.
Who would you like to thank? I would love to thank my parents for getting me started in all of this. They bought me my first gun. My dad got me an electronic target system and pushed aside his woodworking shop to build me a range. I also want to thank all of the people who have helped me along the way.