A Stroke of Greatness: Dani Hansen

Leanne Yenush

What does #AStrokeOfGreatness mean to you? 

A stroke of greatness is just that. One single stroke. If you can focus enough just on the stroke you are taking -- making sure that you are putting every ounce of thought and relaxation and intention behind it -- then every single stroke can be great. It’s about not letting yourself get caught up in the strokes that have passed or anxious about the strokes ahead. It's simply the ultimate test of being present. Pouring every part of yourself into that single moment in time -- that single stroke. That’s how you achieve greatness. Then all you have to do is rinse and repeat.

How did you choose rowing? 

My first time in a boat was as a rowing recruit at the University of Washington in Seattle. I had been an athlete my entire life, focusing mainly on volleyball and softball. I knew that I wanted to be a Division I college athlete — I just wasn’t sure what sport and where. 

I was born with Erb’s palsy — a form of brachial plexus palsy that impacts the network of nerves in the arm. As a baby, my doctors told my parents that I’d likely never use my left arm, and would have difficulty doing even the most basic day-to-day tasks. There’s a difference between being “disabled” and being “adaptive.” Para-Athletes aren’t disabled — they are athletes that have adapted to excel within their sport. The way I think about it is that life is full of setbacks — you can’t let those setbacks define you; rather, let the way that you adapt, overcome, thrive and inspire others be the thing that sets you apart. 

The coaches at UW saw my potential and took a chance on me. The moment I got on the water, I knew it was for me. Since then, I have won one National Championship, been on six US National Teams, won multiple medals at World Championships, set a world record, earned the silver medal in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, and am headed to my second Paralympic Games in Tokyo in just a few weeks. 

What is your proudest athletic achievement? 

My proudest athletic achievement actually transcends sports. When I got home from the Rio Paralympics in 2016, my hometown of Patterson, CA awarded me with the Hometown Hero award and named November 26th “Dani Hansen Day” as a town holiday. That was the coolest thing ever. 

What does that mean to you to have represented the USA in the Paralympics and on the international stage? 

It is an honor to be one of the few chosen to represent my country on that large of a stage. I don’t take it lightly and it’s really quite humbling. I always want to go and make everyone proud to have believed in me and supported me. 

What type of work went into where you are today?

I pay very close attention to details. My coach says, ‘The way you do anything is the way you do everything’. I believe this mindset helps me lead a more disciplined and intentional life. At the end of the day, that intention makes me feel more confident and capable because I can trust myself to do what is best for myself and the people around me -- whether it be my teammates, or friends, or family.

What sets Hydrow apart from other teams that you have been on?

The Hydrow team is like no other team that I’ve ever been on. There is always a teammate to relate to, lean on, or compete with. The amount of support that I have received (and still am receiving) from the crew here is overwhelmingly positive and bordering unbelievable -- I have never felt more encouraged. Making the US team this year would have been so much more difficult without the support of my Hydrow team, and it’s a feeling I’ll always remember. I am so grateful to be representing Team USA and Team Hydrow. 

What’s your personal motto? 

“Fast and happy” because you gotta be happy to be fast. Keep those priorities straight! 


Learn more about Dani in her Athlete Bio, follow her on Instagram, and learn a bit more about her workout style on YouTube.