Welcome back to the spotlight, John Daly.
The New York native, who walked away from skeleton after a disappointing performance at the Sochi Games in 2014, is back for one more run in PyeongChang and he’s got plenty of support to back him up. Daly is hoping to wrap up his comeback with a medal, looking to erase the bitter memories of his last Olympics and, most importantly, do his family proud after years of encouragement.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Daly family and how they got the 32-year-old back on his board:
1. Daly Credits His Family for His Success
Daly has always been a dominant athlete, but no matter what he’s doing – running track and field or sliding down a giant track of ice on a sled – his family has supported him every step of the way. In fact, Daly regularly credits his parents, siblings and Aunt Sabina for his success, telling Team USA they have “all been there from the beginning.”
And, now, heading into his third Olympic Games, the Daly family has plenty of reason to be proud.
Daly has competed in just about every international skeleton event, including the Vancouver and Sochi Olympics, the World Cup, Intercontinental Cup, European Cup and North American Cup. Despite his retirement after the Sochi Games, Daly has still notched solid performances in the last few months. He placed 17th in Lake Placid in November 2017 and notched an 18th-place finish in Park City the same month.
He also placed 15th in St. Moritz and 10th in Koenigssee in January 2018, a big-time confidence boost as he looks to get back on the podium in PyeongChang.
2. His Father, Jim, Is a Retired FDNY Medic
Daly is the first to point out that he gets his drive from one person – his father.
Jim Daly, a retired FDNY medic, comes from a family of law enforcement officials, including his brother and father who also worked for the fire department. Daly’s brother, Jim Jr., is a Rikers Island corrections officer, but the Olympian never felt the pressure to pursue a similar career. His father encouraged his athletic tendencies, even when they might have been just a bit more dangerous than run-of-the-mill sports.
Daly’s father regularly recounts watching his then-teenage son break both of his wrists while BMX racing at the Grand Nationals in Kentucky, requiring surgery, but the injury didn’t hold him back. And his father made sure to help him get back on track, quite literally. “He was jumping out of a tree two days later,” Jim Daly told AM New York. “And then the pin in his wrist, they had to pull it out with a pair of pliers and redo it. That was John.”
3. Daly’s Mother Sparked His Interest in the Olympics
Daly’s mother is not a sports fan. She doesn’t read stories or pay attention to games, but, once, every two years, when the Olympics are on TV, she makes an exception.
And that interest changed Daly’s entire life. He told NBC Olympics his first memory of the Games was watching with his mother and her overwhelming interest in every single sport helped spark his initial interest in competing:
I know the exact moment I decided I wanted to be an Olympian. My mom knew absolutely nothing at all about sports, but she loved the Olympics and she knew everything about it. During the 1994 Winter Olympics, she sat me and my brother and sister down to watch with her and she was so excited. We were watching speed skating. And when Dan Jansen won the gold medal, she jumped up and shouted “we won!!” It wasn’t “they” or “he” won, it was “we won” and I looked at his suit and it didn’t say his last name, it just said USA. And that’s the moment it clicked. I wanted to be part of the “we” and represent Team USA, something more than just myself. Represent my country. And win an Olympic medal.
Of course, it wasn’t easy to start competing in skeleton, particularly on Long Island. Daly competed in a handful of track and field events at Smithtown High School and it wasn’t until a middle school gym teacher introduced him to the luge sled that he turned his attention to the ice.
Daly qualified for a training camp in Lake Placid, in luge, before, eventually transitioning to skeleton. He studied at SUNY Plattsburgh in upstate New York so he could continue to train and live out his Olympic dream.
4. His Family Supported Him After His Disappointing Performance at Sochi
The picture made the rounds for days afterwards – Daly sliding down the track at the Sochi Games with his head in his hands, well aware he’d just competed in his last event.
The Olympian, who was expected to contend for a medal in 2014, placed 15th at Sochi, a heartbreaking finish that led him to turn his back on the sport completely. His father told him after the event, “What happened here today, will make you the man you are tomorrow,” but Daly struggled to keep the advice in mind as he turned towards a future without skeleton in it.
Daly went on a three-year hiatus, telling Team USA he went into a “really dark place” and “ran away from everything.” He moved to Washington D.C., got a “normal” job in medical sales and refused to look at the results of his friends who were still competing.
Daly did his best to ignore the sport and the Olympic Games completely, but as soon as the 2016 Rio Olympics wrapped, the desire to compete was back – and his family stepped up to the metaphorical plate. Daly’s parents and siblings supported his decision to return, cheering for every race and every finish and waiting, with baited breath, for the announcement that he’d made Team USA again.
In the end, it was Daly’s mother who told him he’d made the cut in mid-January 2018 and the entire family knows he’s heading to PyeongChang ready to wrap up the comeback on a high note. “[If there’s] one thing I’ve ever learned about John: Don’t ever count him out,” Jim Daly told AM New York. “He can rise to the occasion, and he does.”
5. Daly Considers His Two Dogs Part of the Family
Get ready for an onslaught of adorable. When he isn’t sliding down the skeleton track, Daly can most often be found at home – with his two dogs, Petey and Bella.
Daley told NBC Olympics that he’s currently fostering Petey, a pitbull mix, for one of his friends and the two have become a one-two training punch. Petey regularly joins Daly on his workouts and the skeleton star said he’s “going to be heartbroken when I have to give Petey up.”
He also regularly brings Bella along with him on training runs as well, doing his best to keep up with the pups and the trio can often be spotted jogging around his neighborhood near Washington D.C.