McKenna Dahl: My best moments of Rio 2016

Surprise bronze medalist McKenna Dahl (USA) recalls a Paralympic debut she will never forget. 30 Oct 2016
McKenna Dahl

McKenna Dahl

ⒸUSA Shooting
By Rebecca Schaefer | For the IPC

The interview with McKenna Dahl about her Rio experiences could hardly have been scheduled better: 13 October, exactly one month after her sensational, historic bronze triumph in the R5 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH2) final at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Sensational because Dahl had only reached the first R5 final of her six-year career eight months earlier. Historic because she became the first female US Para sport shooter to claim a Paralympic medal.

“On this very day one month ago,” Dahl remembered, “I was finishing my final preparations for the event I had dedicated the last six years of my life to. I was listening to music before my match and calming my thoughts. I was shooting the match that I had prepared six years for. And at the end of the match and final, I was making history. I was crying, laughing and enjoying life to the fullest. It was one of the proudest, happiest days of my life so far.”

While on a well-earned vacation “after a-month-and-a-half of crazy,” the 20-year-old took the time to further relieve her Paralympic debut and list the three Rio memories that will stick with her forever.

The R5 match, of course

“I remember my R5 match and final so vividly because of the calmness I felt the entire time. I knew I had properly prepared for the Games and just wanted to show the world what I could do. Making history with a bronze medal just added to the moment and how proud I felt because of it.”

The Athletes’ Village

“Entering the Village for the first time was another of my most memorable moments. I was exhausted after a long flight and a crazy day in team processing, but entering the Village took my breath away. I had earned my chance to represent the United States and was thrilled to finally be there. Years of hard work came down to these three weeks and two matches. I was motivated and ready to go. Seeing the Village just made that feeling so much stronger.”

The Opening Ceremony

“Walking out of the dark tunnel behind the American flag into the stadium for Opening Ceremonies was breathtaking. I remember hearing the people in the crowd cheering and hollering when we were about to enter the tunnel, and chanting “USA, USA!” as we disappeared inside the tunnel.

“As we pushed deeper into the stadium tunnel, the lights and sounds from the stadium just got brighter and louder. Right before we were about to walk out, there was a moment of calm where I could see the American flag and our flag bearer through the crowd. In that moment I was just so proud and blessed to be a part of Team USA. It was an incredible moment.”

The 2017 shooting Para sport season gets underway in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, between 19-28 February.