Darda Sales has been to three Paralympics as a swimmer. She'll be on the hardcourt for her return to the Games this summer in Rio.
Sales was forced to give up her swimming career in 2010 after she developed compartment syndrome in her left forearm. Looking for a competitive sports outlet, she gave wheelchair basketball a try and quickly became hooked.
"I fell in love with how non-swimming it was," Sales said Monday. "It's a completely different sport in so many different ways. I just loved how fast-paced it was, how a little bit physical it is. I was really excited to find something I could fall in love with that was completely different than my past sport. It just took off from there."
Sales was one of 24 athletes nominated for selection to the Canadian wheelchair basketball teams on Monday at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto. The players received their official team jackets during an on-court ceremony, which came 100 days before the start of the Rio Paralympics.
The Canadian men won gold four years ago in London while the women's side settled for a sixth-place result. High-performance director Mike Frogley said both squads have podium potential at the Sept. 7-18 Rio Paralympics.
"We've got some great veterans that have been to multiple Games and they're going to provide the leadership, consistency and stability that [each] team needs to be a medal contender," he said.
There will be 12 countries in the men's competition and 10 teams in the women's tournament. The Canadian men will play Spain on Sept. 8 while the women will open that day against Great Britain.
Sales said it probably took about three to four years of hard training before she truly felt comfortable on the basketball court. Wheelchair basketball was easier on her arm since it didn't require the repetitive motion that was a must for swimming.
She earned a spot on the national team in 2014 and the squad won gold at the world championship that year in Toronto.
"I'm starting to own the skills and the traits that I bring to the team," she said. "It's starting to be a really exciting time for me. I'm really starting to feel like I'm getting in my groove and feeling my place on the team."
Sales, a 33-year-old from London, Ont., won her first Paralympic gold in the 4x100-metre medley relay in Sydney. She added silver four years later in Athens and also competed at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.
She has enjoyed success in Rio in the past as well, taking para-swimming gold and silver at the 2007 Parapan Am Games in the Brazilian city. Sales, who wears a prosthetic right leg, also helped Canada win wheelchair basketball silver at the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto.
While she did compete in a team setting during relay races in the pool, her swimming focus was mostly about striving for that perfect individual performance in her lane. The sport of wheelchair basketball offers a much different feel.
"You get to share every moment with the team, you can't do this alone," Sales said. "You need those four other girls or those 11 other players to help you through the game and to do well. That part is really different.
"I'm loving that I have someone to lean on and it's not just me behind the blocks waiting to go."