I believe the Support4Sport program is really the best thing to happen to sport in Nova Scotia in a very long time

Ken Bagnell, President
Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic

Danial Murphy

Like a fish to water: The Danial Murphy story
Danial Murphy

In 1989 like most babies, Danial Murphy arrived screaming into the world but it was in the restless weeks to follow though that the Murphys began worrying that something wasn’t right.

Danial screamed relentlessly. His screams were not those of a hungry baby; they were woeful and at times gut-wrenching. The Murphys’ fears were amplified when after being diagnosed with several common conditions – such as cholic or indigestion – Danial didn’t respond to treatment.  

Desperate for answers, Danial’s parents took him to see countless specialists, yet despite their insistence his rare condition was continually overlooked. When Danial was six-months old, the Murphys were finally given a diagnosis that made sense. Danial was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, and his family was devastated to learn that their son may never walk, sit upright or learn to speak.

For many, a positive Cerebral Palsy diagnosis means a lifetime of challenges, but for Danial it was just another opportunity to break new barriers. After defying his condition at every turn, at age 21 Danial Murphy is ranked 11th in the world in para swimming.  

“I am a para swimmer,” says Danial. “In other words a competitive swimmer with a physical disability.” Danial joined his local swim team in Bedford when he was 12 years old. It was a competitive team and he was the only member with a disability.  

He explains saying, “I wanted to be on a team with all the other young people from my community. Everyone let me in, and even with some physical difficulties they made it possible for me to be on the team.”  

Danial’s physical condition made taking normal swimming strokes impossible. So, in order to keep up, for every stroke his teammates took, Danial would take ten.  

It wasn’t long before Danial’s tremendous spirit and determination caught the attention of coach Kevin Ross. Ross had experience working with disabled swimmers and he immediately recognized Danial’s potential.  

“Swimming has not been easy but with coaching support, I have been able to adapt all the competitive strokes used by able-bodied athletes,” says Danial.  

Armed with a strong support system of family and friends, and with the most experienced para swimming coach in Atlantic Canada behind him, Danial set out to make a name for himself in the sport.

Para swimming has taken Danial to destinations all over North America. In April 2008, Danial attended trials for the Beijing Paralympics, and although he was not selected for Team Canada, he did set two new Canadian Para Swimming records. Danial has since taken part in many levels of competition. He was selected for the Canadian National Team for the Para Swimming Championships in Brazil and also participated in the Canada Games on Team Nova Scotia in August 2009. At the US Paralympic Swimming Championships in San Antonio, Texas, Danial earned a place on the Canadian National Team for the IPC World Championship in the Netherlands in August 2010.  

Danial’s family has supported his athletic journey since day one, but it hasn’t always been easy.

“Non swimmers do not realize the costs involved in competitive swimming,” explains Danial.  

Paying for pool time, professional coaching and frequent travel are some of the more notable expenses. In addition to these costs, para swimmers often require an attendant to help with their physical needs during travel and this doubles traveling costs.

“By the time I reached age 16, I was traveling regularly throughout North America for competition. Annual costs were in excess of $15,000 and growing,” Danial says.  

This year, the Murphy family was able to offset some of their costs because of the funding they received from the Support4Sport program.  

“Being able to access funding through Support4Sport has allowed me to make commitments to training and competition opportunities which will ultimately help me stay at the world level. Without the Support4Sport funding it may not be possible,” says Danial.  

The assistance Danial received helped fund his journey to the Netherlands, where from August 15 – 21, the world’s best paralympic athletes met to represent their nations. Danial finished in the top ten in the 100 freestyle and 200 freestyle events. He finished 13th in the 50 freestyle and 50 butterfly. The three freestyle swims were even new Canadian records. Since 2008, Danial has set and broken many records. His 200 freestyle performance time was under the minimum qualifying standard for the 2012 Olympic / Paralympic games in London, England.

Even in the midst of such athletic success, Danial’s personal triumphs don’t end by the poolside. Although his training has required literally thousands of hours in the water and at the gym, Danial graduated from high school in 2008 and has since been busy taking college courses, volunteering and working part-time. As if these accomplishments weren’t already enough, earlier this year Danial’s founded The “ICAN” Association. The not-for-profit association was established so that every individual with a physical disability could find assistance with their athletic, recreational, education and employment endeavors.  

Danial’s story is truly a testament to the strength of the human spirit. Although 21 years ago doctors said he would be lucky to walk, today Danial is proving that with perseverance and faith, luck has little to do with it.


Halifax, NS
44° 38' 50.9568" N, 63° 35' 37.2264" W


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