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A Paralympian On a Mission for Danish Youth

Anne-Dorte Andersen was born as the only child to a loving set of parents in Copenhagen, Denmark. From a very early age, Anne was attracted to physical activity. When she was five years old, she wanted to become a dancer. Her mother, who had never pursued physical activity, was a little nervous for her young daughter to join a dance class. But Anne was relentless and eventually her mother conceded. That was the start of Anne’s physically active life.

Like her mother, Anne has Dysmelia, a condition that means she was born without hands and feet. For many reasons,  Anne’s mother became the central, most important person in Anne’s life. They shared the characteristic of Dysmelia, which only strengthened their bond.

When Anne turned twelve, she asked to join the local swimming club.  Anne’s father searched for a club that would include his daughter and train her with the other students. To their surprise, it was quite difficult to find a coach that would allow her to participate. In the end, her father succeeded and Anne began her swimming career.

In the water, Anne was a natural. By the age of fifteen, Anne was competing as a Paralympian at the 1988 Seoul Paralympics Games. She followed that performance up with two more Paralympic appearances at the 1992 Games in Barcelona and the 1996 Games in Atlanta. For Anne, like many young girls, sports allowed her to express herself.

“Being on the national team meant a lot to me. There were only three of us females on the team, which forced us to express ourselves, to get over our shyness and learn to advocate for what we needed. As women with disabilities, we had to learn to fight for our own rights and to make our own path in life.  Without sport, I’m not sure I would have done this for myself with the same resolve.”

After an extensive swimming career, Anne began looking for a job in the civil sector in Denmark. Unfortunately, due to unintended prejudices within the Danish work system, jobs for persons with disabilities were hard to come by. So Anne moved to the UK, where she found employment as a Disability Sports Development Officer in Wales and then in England. After more than ten years away, Anne returned to her home country to work with the Danish Sports Association for the Disabled. In her position as the Sports Project Coordinator for Disabled Children and Youth, Anne is responsible for creating more sport opportunities for children with disabilities and identifying potential athlete for the Danish Paralympics talent squads.

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