“It was a race I had been training hard for since the beginning of the year, and to be able to win it was pretty special.”
In just three years, Canada’s Stefan Daniel has made a meteoric rise in Para triathlon to become a gold medal contender at September’s Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
But his quick success is no surprise, considering how athletic he has been all his life.
“I started swimming when I was eight years old. I competed in Para swimming and ran track and cross country when I was younger,” said Daniel, who competes in the men’s PT4 category.
The 19-year-old freshman from the University of Calgary was born with bilateral radial dysplasia, which caused the radius bone in his right arm to not fully develop. Although his right arm is seven inches shorter than his left, he has never shied away from being a competitive athlete.
His father competed in Ironman races and introduced his son to triathlons. Using his already impressive athletic skill set, he began competing in Kids of Steel races in Canada. But he did not decide to seriously train for Para triathlon until 2013 when he found that the sport had been added to the Rio 2016 Paralympic sports programme.
With an end goal in mind, Daniel began training and in his first three years competing internationally he had consecutive bronze, silver, and gold medal finishes at the World Championships (2013-2015).
“The experiences I have had at the World Championships have been unforgettable. Competing for Canada was always a dream of mine, and to be able to make that dream a reality is a really cool feeling,” Daniel said.
His first place finish at the 2015 International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Triathlon Grand Final in Chicago, USA, did not come easily. During the race, both he, and runner-up, Martin Schulz of Germany, had to deal with flat tyres on their bikes.
“Chicago was one of the most challenging races I have ever done. I didn’t have a good swim, and came out well back of the leaders. I felt really bad on the run, but I knew it was my race to lose,” said Daniel who was able to prevail, beating two-time world champion, Schulz (2013-2014), and France’s Yannick Bourseaux. Bourseaux, a veteran of the sport, and also a two-time world champion (2011-2012).
“Crossing the finish chute was an unbelievable feeling,” he said. “It was a race I had been training hard for since the beginning of the year, and to be able to win it was pretty special.”
With his victory in Chicago, Daniel also booked his ticket to Rio with Team Canada.
“Knowing that I’ll be going to Rio is extremely exciting,” he said. “I’ve never experienced a major Games and I’m looking forward to the excitement of the Games.”
Since Chicago, he has been busy training. He competes on the Dinos’ cross country team and has spent 2016 focusing on competitions in Junior Elite Racing. In 2015, he won the Canadian National Junior Triathlon Championships.
“Winning Junior Elite Nationals in 2015 [is a career highlight thus far],” Daniel said. “I’ve always compared myself to able-bodied athletes in training and racing, but to actually win was something I never expected. I had always dreamed of winning that race, and to have it happen was very special.”
Para triathlon will make its debut in Rio on 10-11 September at Copacabana Beach. The event will feature races in men’s PT1, 2 and 4 and women’s PT2, 4, and 5.
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs)
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.