Dani Kanas only needs the one arm.
To throw the javelin, to train, to drive a car, to go to school.
This is how she lives her life.
“I just feel like an athlete,” the 17-year-old Steinbrenner High track and field thrower said. “There are times where I’m thinking I’m not able to do this or do certain workouts, but I am able to adapt — because you don’t always have to do it like everyone else. There’s a way to do it that works for you.
“I was able to find this sport and I’m so glad I did.”
She’s been successful in throwing the javelin, the discus and shot put.
Kanas has been so successful, she was selected as one of 30 athletes to represent Team USA in the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) World Games. And on that world stage in November, in Portugal, Kanas did not disappoint.
She brought home three medals — a gold in javelin, a silver in discus and a bronze in shot put.
“It was a different experience because I’m used to being in the states,” Kanas said. “It was such a cool experience to see what it was like competing against people from different countries, and I enjoyed meeting other adaptive athletes from the states there, so it was a great experience to get to travel there and compete.
“Bringing back a medal was great, too!”
Javelin to the top
When Kanas was just a baby, she was abandoned at a train station in China.
She was rescued and taken to an orphanage, but an infection developed in her left arm, requiring amputation for her to survive.
She was adopted and brought to the states when she was about 18 months old.
As she grew older, she joined in all of the same games and activities as her able-bodied peers. She tried various sports, such as soccer, that didn’t require the use of both arms, but then attended an adaptive track and field camp until she was 8.
Once she had the chance to throw a javelin, the rest was history.
“When I was younger, I thought my amputation was going to limit me, but as I started to compete, you learn that as an adaptive athlete, you kind of learn that it’s just another competition — no matter what.
“I was playing soccer at the time and just saw all these people at my school doing those things and I just thought that I would never be able to do certain things that other kids were doing,” she added.
“But now I’ve grown used to competing with able-bodied athletes.”
Besides competing in adaptive track and field competitions, she also competes for Steinbrenner against able-bodied student athletes from neighboring schools and teams. She is given no advantage, yet still holds her own, including taking the javelin event in the Steinbrenner Invitational this season.
“It takes a tough mindset to shrug all that off and compete against regular kids,” said Steinbrenner’s throwing coach Andre Washington, a 2016 grad and former thrower himself. “You see that in Dani, that there’s the want — it’s a want mindset — ‘I’m not going to let this one arm take anything away from me. I’m going to go out there and give it my all and win.’ … She thinks of herself as a regular person — which she is — and it’s her determination to be great that has gotten her to where she is today.
“(Her throwing with one arm) — blows my mind. It’s an incredible thing to watch.”
It’s hard not to notice Kanas’ determination, her drive, her desire to compete at the level she knows she’s capable of. It’s also hard not to notice that a one-arm thrower — wearing a prosthetic for some balance — is out there competing at a high level, already carrying around international medals.
“She’s one of our top throwers — obviously,” Steinbrenner’s longtime track and field coach Ladd Baldwin said. “She can throw for her size, too, because you’re not going to be wowed by her size — she’s not a big kid, at all, but her form is incredible and that’s what helps her to compete.
“She’s been wonderful here (at Steinbrenner) and she’s a great thrower — she’s just one of those kids who loves it and gets it.”
Her passion to compete is creating new opportunities, as collegiate adaptive sports programs in Michigan and Southern California have offered her scholarships. Kanas, however, is leaning toward an offer from Alabama.
“I never thought that would be a possibility,” Kanas added.
The possibilities are endless for this determined, yet still fully abled thrower, who can reach all those, and her goals, even with just the one arm.
“My goal is to show others — who may have a similar story to mine, who may be in a similar situation as me — that they shouldn’t let their disability stop them.
“I want to, and hope,” she continued, “I inspire them to go out and compete. I want them to know that this community (of adaptive athletes) exists and they shouldn’t just assume they can’t do it because they’re not able-bodied.”
Published March 08, 2023