Daniela Todorova is a Bulgarian parathlete in her thirties and all of her life she has been a javelin thrower. Seven years ago, while being at a training camp with the other athletes from the national team of Bulgaria, she got a spinal cord injury. Less than a year after this life-threatening event she returned to the sport. She made her return to the sport in spectacular fashion. Her first participation in parathlete sport was on the biggest sporting platform – the Olympic Games (in Beijing)! Not only did Daniela compete in the Olympic Games but she also won the bronze medal there!
There are many achievements throughout her sporting career to note – gold medal from the world championship in India in 2009; gold medal from the European championship in the Netherlands in 2010; 4th place at the world championship in New Zealand in 2011; gold and silver medals from the world championship in Dubai in 2011; silver medal from the European championship in the Netherlands in 2012 and 6th place at the Paralympic Games in London 2012.
She now lives in her small hometown Kazanlak (a.k.a. the town of roses in Bulgaria) and has a sports club there which gives motivation and inspiration to people worldwide. Daniela is also continuing with her sporting career with great success!
What is your personal experience of disability?
In 2006, I had a ridiculous accident. During a power workout with a 120kg barbell I slipped and fell down. Unfortunately, the super heavy barbell squeezed me and one of my thoracic vertebrae was smashed. My spinal cord injury led to my use of wheelchair now. After a long process of intensive rehabilitation I realised how much all this changed me. It made me much stronger, more willing to fight, more confident and with many more (and meaningful!) dreams.
Is there an area of Independent Living that you are especially interested in?
The problem with the inaccessible environment is of greatest interest to me, because nobody should feel dependent. We all need to get on with our lives in the most independent way possible and feel useful in one area or another.
Who has influenced you the most, and how?
The greatest influence in my life, has always come from my family. Even in the most arduous and painful moments they were next to me, supporting me in everything.
What personal achievement are you most proud of?
Despite my achievements in athletics, I would not say that they make me most proud of myself. The fact that I recovered from the accident quickly and returned to competition is what satisfies me most. I want to show everybody that hard work is rewarded as long as you believe in yourself.
Do you have a favourite saying or proverb?
I would not say I have a favourite saying. However, what I’ve reiterated time and again is “What doesn’t kill you make you stronger”.
What motivates you to get up in the morning?
Every morning I get up with the wish and desire for better sports results, as well as better physical condition and the wish to meet new people with whom to have fun and interesting discussions with. I wake up with the hope that the new day will be more successful than the previous one.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
In my free time I like to visit new places and also to go shopping!
If you could invite anyone to a dinner party, who would be your ideal guests?
The perfect guests would be people with whom I have common interests with and we could discuss similar topics for discussion, people who I admire and highly respect like great athletes for example. One such person is the Czech javelin thrower, world and Olympic champion and world record holder.
What advice would you give to young adults with a disability?
I would advise all young people with disabilities never to give up, to believe in themselves, to be motivated despite any difficulties they face. They should have optimistic attitude towards life and never lose faith. Oh, and most important of all – to pursue their GOALS!