LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (Nov. 21, 2016)- Two-time Olympic skeleton competitor John Daly (Smithtown, N.Y.) announced today that he’s returning to the sport after a three-year hiatus with the goal of making the 2018 Olympic Team.
Daly disappeared from the sliding scene after a heartbreaking 15th place finish at the 2014 Sochi Games. He was in bronze medal position, just ahead of teammate Matt Antoine, after the first day of competition at the Sanki Sliding Center. Everything was falling into place; he just needed two more consistent runs to achieve the dream of a lifetime.
“It’s ridiculously mind blowing to be in medal position,” Daly said after the first two heats. “Medaling is something that you think about all the time. You know you can do it, but to execute is so hard. For me, it was a medal or nothing coming into this race. I don’t know what’s going to happen in four years, but I need to enjoy these runs and race like it’s my last, because I don’t know if I’ll ever get this chance again.”
On the fourth and final run, Daly’s sled popped out of the start groove and sent him into a skid, losing invaluable time.
“It kind of hit me right away,” Daly said in his heart wrenching NBC interview at the finish. “And from then on, I was just trying to get down safe to be totally honest, I knew it was over. I had a mile of ice to think about what just happened and now I have four more years to wait.”
Daly crossed the finish line with his head buried in his hands, and it was seemingly the last time the world would see him on a skeleton sled. He stood at the finish and watched his teammate, Antoine, go on to win bronze, and said if anyone was going to beat him, he’d pick Antoine.
Despite his stoic response, he was distraught. His run haunted him.
“The last picture anyone saw was that awful picture of me sliding through the finish with my head in my hands,” Daly said. “That picture and that last interview where I was trying my hardest to keep it together choking back tears. It was horrible. I was completely devastated. My world fell apart in an instant.”
Daly said he went into a “really dark place” and “ran away from everything” he knew. He moved to Washington, D.C. and got a job in medical sales. He didn’t check results as the 2014-2015 season started, and tried to erase it from his memory.
But there was a big hole in his heart.
“I started to get a tiny smolder of a flame back, I started to miss it a little,” Daly said.
He ventured to Lake Placid, N.Y. last March to surprise his former teammates as a forerunner for the USA Skeleton National Championships. He claimed it was just a joke, a way to finally shrug off what happened in Sochi and take a final run on the ice on his terms.
It still hurt. He said he couldn’t even watch the 2016 Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony. But he couldn’t shake the tiny flame that was ignited.
Daly has been back on the U.S. Anti Doping Association’s testing pool list since March, and he will be eligible to compete for a spot on the World Cup team once he’s completed the international federation’s rule of racing in five competitions on at least three tracks over two seasons.
Daly knows making a comeback won’t be easy, but he feels like it’s worth it. The 13-year veteran is ready, for whatever may come.