Meet 2020 Tokyo Paralympian, Stefan Daniel

Stefan Daniel made history in 2016 becoming the first Canadian triathlete ever to win a medal at the Paralympic Summer Games when the sport made its Paralympic debut in Rio de Janeiro. 

He later went on to win the World Championship for paratriathlon in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2017. Since then, Daniel has continued competing as a fierce competitor, now setting his sights on the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. 

Out&Back recently got to catch up with Daniel and chat about training, camping, and how he stayed motivated during the ups and downs of 2020. 

 

1. When did you first get involved in triathlon?

I first got into triathlon when I was 9 at a local Kids of Steel Race in Kelowna. I had also watched my dad compete in Ironman Arizona around that time.

2. When did you realize you wanted to become a professional? 

I started out as a competitive para swimmer and really wanted to make a Paralympics in swimming. However, I always loved running and never wanted to give it up.  When it was announced in 2013 that triathlon would be added to the Paralympics in Rio, I knew I had a chance to make the team if I focused on the sport. 2013 was my first full on triathlon season.

3. What was it like training through COVID, dealing with the Games being postponed, and staying motivated?

It was tough, pool closures and gym closures were far from ideal. However, I used the time to really focus on my biking which was my weakness in Rio. The extra year of developing my bike strength has really paid off, and I’m better prepared now than I would have been if the games were last year. No racing was difficult but I used the time to do things that I normally wouldn’t get to do, such as camping and other fun activities.

4. What’s a typical day like for you with training?

Each day differs, but I train 2-3 times per day 7 days a week. I train 18-23 hours per week.

5. Out of the swim, bike run, which is your favorite? Which do you have to spend the most time on?

Run is by far my favourite. I love the simplicity of the sport and how you can just throw your shoes on and explore. But biking is what I spend the most time on. Most triathletes do this as biking requires the most time to build a proper base.

6. Do you have a favorite place to go to train? 

Maui, Hawaii and Flagstaff, Arizona are my favourite spots to train. Both are very different but offer great places to ride, nice pools, and endless running trails.

7. Living in Canada, how does the weather affect your training? Are there any gear staples in your closet that have made it easier to deal with?

I train indoors in the winter, using a bike trainer, swimming in the pool, and running on the indoor track. I will try to run outside for easier sessions or tempo runs. Luckily I get to go to a couple training camps in the winter to break things up, usually in Victoria and Arizona.

8. What are your favorite memories being outside?

Definitely exploring new cities on the bike with friends. We get to travel the world as triathletes and it is always fun to go for a long ride and find new places.

9. Who have you looked up to when it comes to sport? 

I always looked up to Michael Phelps growing up. The way he handled pressure so well and was so even keel every day was incredible to watch. When I saw him win 8 gold medals in Beijing I realized that making an Olympic/Paralympic team was what I wanted to do.

10. What is your favorite activity when you aren’t training?

That would definitely be camping! I love going to Spray Lakes West Campground. 

11. Last question! How are you going to celebrate after Tokyo?

Having some beers! I’ll definitely take a week or 2 off to rest, but then I am straight back to school and into cross country running with my university team.