Hawaii Paralympian ready for Rio

Hawaii Paralympian ready for Rio despite losing funding
Ann Yoshida (Image: 'Rally Me' Fundraiser Page)
Ann Yoshida (Image: 'Rally Me' Fundraiser Page)
Nina Yoshida (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Nina Yoshida (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Image: 'Rally Me' Fundraiser Page
Image: 'Rally Me' Fundraiser Page
Image: 'Rally Me' Fundraiser Page
Image: 'Rally Me' Fundraiser Page

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mililani resident Ann Yoshida is headed to the Paralympics in Rio.

She'll be the first Native Hawaiian to compete in the Paralympics in kayaking.

Competing on the national stage is a lifelong dream for Yoshida.

"For me, as a child I saw the Olympics and I really loved gymnastics and I wanted to be that gymnast," she said.

Yoshida was paralyzed from the chest down after a car accident in 2000. She was in college in Utah at the time.

"Her aorta ruptured and that's what made her paralyzed, no oxygen to her body for a few minutes," said her mother, Nina Yoshida.

Ann Yoshida was in a coma for days.

"I wanted to be the first one to talk to her, and let her know that she can still be who she needs to be but she is going to do it differently," her mom said.

And Ann Yoshida took her mom's words to heart.

She started paddling a few years ago after friends invited her to give it try. She started with the va'a, and she thrived. She then moved on to the one-man kayak and started competing at the national and international levels.

"I've gained so much from this process of pushing myself every single day to the point where I feel like I'm going to break," Yoshida said.

The Paralympics kick off Sept. 7.

Yoshida was originally an alternate and because of that, she doesn't have the funding that other Team USA athletes have.

Friends started a "Rally Me" fundraising page to help Yoshida cover trip expenses. Shortly after Hawaii News Now aired this story about Yoshida, she got a flood of donations.

"I am overwhelmed with gratitude, knowing I am supported by my fellow Hawaii community," she wrote on her page. "I will picture all of you shouting at my shoulders as I am racing in Rio."

Nina Yoshida says she is so proud of her daughter for overcoming the odds and having a great attitude along the way. Her mother won't be able to go to Rio because of health issues, but will watch online.

"If I have one thing I'd like to say to her, is 'imua' and go for it, and enjoy your time in Rio," she said.

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