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Vancouver dispatcher heads to Rio for Paralympics

The next time you call 9-1-1, you could be speaking with a future Olympic medallist. Vancouver dispatcher Danielle Ellis, 24, is heading to Rio this fall to represent Canada at the Paralympics in sitting volleyball. 
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“It’s feels surreal,” said Ellis who grew up as a below-the-knee amputee. “I grew up competing, but to be asked to represent your country at something on this huge of a scale, it’s unbelievable. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. ” 

Sitting volleyball is played on a smaller court and uses a lower net than standing volleyball. At all times, the player’s pelvis must be in contact with the ground, and service blocks and attacks are allowed.  Athletes with any physical impairment are eligible to compete in sitting volleyball.​ 

“I’ve played both sitting and standing volleyball and sitting volleyball is much more difficult,” Ellis said. “It’s an incredibly exciting and physically-demanding sport.”  

Ellis has worked as a dispatcher for about a year and recently received her primary care paramedic licence.  She credits her competitive sports background with helping her excel on the front-lines. 

“There are a lot of similarities between the two worlds.  You need to be focused, be able to multi-task, make quick analytical decisions, and work seamlessly with your teammates to succeed both on the court and on the front-lines.”

Growing up playing competitive sports also helps Ellis manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.  

“I really love my job.  I love helping take care of people, but it’s definitely a hard job,” she said.  “I’ve learned from all my years competing that you need to apply the same focus to your work that you do to your life, otherwise you can just burn out.” 

Ellis’ success on the court stems from an unfettered training regimen.  She trains with her team in Edmonton as well as on her own at the gym, on the court and studying game tapes. She says Team Canada is an underdog in the group of eight teams competing.  

“We’re excited to upset a lot of teams this year,” she said. “We’ve got some amazing athletes and we’re all ready to prove ourselves and make our country proud.” 

Ellis says her colleagues don’t necessarily believe her when she says she is heading to the Paralympics.  

“I have a prosthetic leg and wear pants to work so I don’t think a lot of people think of me as disabled,” she said.  “I was never brought up as a disabled athlete and I think that’s helped me succeed in my sport, too.  I don’t think about my limitations, I think about putting in the work.” 

Congratulations Danielle on this incredible achievement and best of luck in Rio! 

For more information about sitting volleyball at the Paralympics please visit the Paralympic Movement website​.
staff stories; BCEHS; BC Ambulance Service
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