Port Colborne Paralympian is Paris bound

Emma Van Dyk says swimming changed her life. Photo Credit: Brock University. 

There was a reason Emma Van Dyk started swimming. 

Some two decades later, the pool is where she finds peace. 

And that peace is sending the 21-year old to Paris, France and the 2024 Paralympic Games. 

“I started swimming through therapy because when I was little the doctors told my family I wasn’t ever going to be able to walk or talk in my life,” said Van Dyk on the Niagara Sports Report on Newstalk 610 CKTB. 

Van Dyk, who is an S14 classified para-swimmer, broke her own Canadian record for a third time in the last two years to secure her place in Paris. 

“It’s always been my dream, so knowing I can call myself a Paralympian, it means a lot, and knowing I can compete at the highest level it’s just amazing overall,” Van Dyk said.  

If breaking her own Canadian record wasn’t impressive enough, she did so after breaking her foot just last year.

“I came home from a practice, and I was in the gym session and all of a sudden I was walking down the stairs to go do something, and I fell down the last three steps of my stairs and I shattered my foot,” explained Van Dyk. 

And talk about determination and perseverance: Van Dyk swam through the break. 

“We went to the surgeon, and I said, ‘I’m on the National team, and I want to make Paris, so what’s the best way I can still train?’” said Van Dyk. 

“So I wasn’t put in a full cast, I was put in an air boot, and I would hop in the water with a plastic wrap around and I would just use my upper body to swim – I wouldn’t kick – and I did that for eight weeks.”

Van Dyk is a member of the Brock Niagara Aquatics team coached by Brock Badgers Varsity head coach Dave Ling.

“Emma trains hard and can be very tough on herself,” Ling recently told The Brock News. “Her performance at the Olympic Trials was the best she’s been since breaking her foot last spring, and it was right on time to punch her ticket to Paris.”

Ling was quick to point out how important the Brock Niagara Aquatics team as a whole is to Van Dyk’s success.

“Emma requires a driven support system, and she has thrived with the BNA Diamond program, which trains fully integrated with the Brock Badgers varsity team,” he said. “Her goal was to make the Paris Paralympic team, and through a series of very high highs and low lows, she’s now broken the Canadian record in the S14 100m backstroke three times in the last two years.”

Van Dyk, who credits rowing during the pandemic with helping her strength, cardio and breathing swimming, did indeed echo Ling’s comments about the importance of her teammates, and her family, admitting she trains eight times a week in the water. 

“I would like to thank my family for always supporting me even through the hard times,” said Van Dyk who became Brock swimming’s first Paralympian since 2004. “Thank my club, and all the coaches I’ve had. And especially my teammates for pushing me through even though the times I didn’t want to push through. They told me I was there, and I was ready to make Paris.”

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