Meet the Crew: Dani Hansen

Leanne Yenush

Happy Monday, and welcome to another episode of Meet the Crew. Today we’re featuring Lead Athlete Dani Hansen.

How did you get into rowing?

Dani: My first time in a boat was as a rowing recruit at the University of Washington. 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. 

Throughout my athletic career, coaches were a bit hesitant to give a me a recruiting spot (more on that later). That is, until I met the coach at the University of Washington in Seattle. Immediately, he was willing to take a chance on me. I was recruited my senior year of high school and signed on to row at UW without ever rowing before. Immediately, I loved the intensity and precision required to be great. 

As a Para-Athlete, you’ve faced more than your share of adversity throughout your athletic career. What’s helped you along the way?

Dani: Since I was little, my parents have taught me the importance of persevering in the face of challenges, and have always encouraged me to chase my goals, no matter how big they seemed. This has definitely served me throughout my athletic career.

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. My parents never treated me any differently — they just supported me unconditionally, and showed me that I was strong enough and more than capable enough to go after what I wanted.

When I was four years old, my mom told me, “You’re going to go to the Paralympics one day.” Her steadfast belief in me — along with the love and support of my entire family — has always fueled me.

What has competing as a Para-Athlete taught you? What do you hope to teach others?

Dani: Competing as a Paralympian has changed my life. 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. I’ve competed alongside truly incredible athletes, and learned so much from so many individuals along the way. Your mindset is everything. Telling yourself you’re capable of doing something brings you one step closer to doing so. 

Life is full of setbacks, but you can’t let those setbacks define you. Rather, let the way that you adapt, thrive and inspire others be the thing that sets you apart. 

What has been your proudest rowing moment?

Dani: I have been lucky enough to be a member of many incredibly successful teams in my rowing career. Representing the United States is a huge honor. That being said, I think that my proudest rowing moment was when my college rowing team swept the NCAA National Championships for the first time in history. That feeling of accomplishment was one that I will remember for my entire life.

What drew you to Hydrow from the very beginning?

Dani: I had never even considered rowing could be a part of my life until I got to college. Growing up in a small town in the middle of rural California meant that rowing wasn’t really an option, but once I started, I fell in love. So when I was given the opportunity to become an Athlete for Hydrow, I couldn’t pass it up. Being able to tell my story and share my passion for rowing with people around the world is super exciting.

When I first met with the team here at Hydrow, it was just a small group of people — we didn’t even have a prototype yet! But I believed in the concept and saw what this could be. There’s no blueprint for what we’re doing here, so there have definitely been moments of uncertainty along the way. Here we are, all these months later, with something that is truly moving people and making an impact on their lives. It’s crazy, but really, really exciting. 

What did you name your boat? Why?

Dani: My boat’s name is “Outerspace," simply because I love everything and anything about space. As a kid, I always dreamed of being an astronaut. While actually launching off in a space shuttle seems a little bit far-fetched right now, young-Dani’s dreams come true every time I get to launch off the dock down the river in my own Outerspace. I am keeping the dream alive as best I can! 

Who is your sports hero and why?

Dani: It’s not a specific person, but any athlete who has started off their career as the worst, but kept showing up to get better. 

As a Para-Athlete, my experience with sports has been a bit different from most. I have had to adapt and overcome challenges that would be easier to just avoid. But, I always go back to what my mom used to tell me… that nothing is impossible, you just have to do it a little different.

What would you like to learn about our Hydrow Athletes? Tweet your questions at @Hydrow_by_CREW using #AskTeamHydrow.