US Olympian Daly surmounts heartbreak to rewrite skeleton story

Jim SLATER
Winter Olympian John Daly, who has heard every comment imaginable regarding the two-time major golf champion that shares his name, has been sliding face-first down hills since age six

When his sled slipped out of the groove at the start of his final run in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, skeleton slider John Daly knew his medal dream was over.

Knowing he could never make up lost speed and time, he finished the run shattered and heartbroken, then got angry and frustrated, his 14-year career undone in a moment.

"I was upset. I got livid. I let out a big scream," said Daly, who was in fourth entering that run but ended up 15th.

"I wished there was something to punch, like a pillow not a concrete wall. It was such an angry feeling with no outlet.

"Those emotions calmed down and turned to sadness. Then I sat down and I cried. It was the first time in a very long time."

Then his father consoled him: "He said what happened here today will make you the man you are tomorrow. That has resonated the rest of my life."

It's at the heart of Daly's return to compete at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and after taking two years away from the sport, the 32-year-old American is now hungry to put himself in position again for an Olympic podium.

"I thought I could rewrite my ending, that to come back would destroy the memories I had," Daly said, with the Games in South Korea set to open on Friday.

Daly, who has heard every comment imaginable regarding the two-time major golf champion that shares his name, has been sliding face-first down hills since age six.

He saw pal and training partner Matt Antoine take bronze in Sochi and was touched by Antoine's effort to offer solace.

"He grabbed me and said, 'We won this together. I wouldn't have this if it wasn't for you,'" Daly said. "I'll never forget it."

- 'Flame went out in me' -

Daly subsequently went to work at a Washington medical technology firm and almost never spoke of the Olympics.

"It was hard to deal with. 'How did you do? Horrible.' It was just something to avoid, you would never know I was an Olympian," Daly said.

"There's a flame inside every Olympic athlete. After Sochi, the flame went out in me."

It was on a date when a woman asked him about his passions and he answered the Olympics and told his tale.

"She asked me, 'If you're that passionate about it and you can do it again, why aren't you?'" Daly said. "It was the ember in the back of my mind. If you're on your death bed you're going to regret everything you didn't do."

Then came a weekend of speaking to officials, hunting down equipment and wrestling with his demons.

"Do you have the will power to do this again? What happens if the same thing happens again? Do you want to go down this street again?" Daly asked himself.

"It was just a tough blow, it was such an unfinished feeling. I could handle a result -- first, fourth, whatever. Instead, there was a big 'what if?'"

Daly has worked on his starts extensively as he looks back to that fateful run four years ago.

"I think it was a freak accident," Daly said. "I have been working on that for the past year and a half."

And as Daly tweeted after his Olympic berth for Pyeongchang became official: "I'm proof that you're never too old to dream a new dream."