Photo of John Daly

Taking Slides: Our Olympian on ‘Going for Broke’

By Luke Cyphers
January 2014

John Daly ’07 has a knack for pushing limits.

As a teenage bicycle motocross rider, he broke both wrists in a training crash. As a budding film director, he sometimes skirts the edge of good taste in a series of cringe-comedy videos on YouTube. And as an athlete in skeleton, the Olympic sliding event where competitors rocket headfirst down an icy, twisty course at 70 mph, pushing limits is just part of the job.

It’s a job Daly wouldn’t trade for anything right now. He is among the best in the world, and his gaze is fixed on a second straight appearance in the Winter Olympics — despite the inevitable frustrations on the road to February’s Sochi Games.

Coming off a December World Cup race at Lake Placid in which he took fourth overall, Daly lamented steering out of a curve an eye-blink too soon, leaving him .03 seconds from a bronze medal and a little more than a tenth of a second from silver. “I had one mistake, and it moved me from second place to fourth,” he says. But in typical fashion, Daly laughs it off. “I’m kinda sliding the best and the worst of my career at the same time.”

Taking One Curve at a Time

He described his first Olympics, in Vancouver in 2010 when he was just 24, as a “dream come true” and a valuable lesson for the second youngest slider in the field. “I went all or nothing,” he says, “and all or nothing bit me.” He finished 17th. This time, he says he’s a lot more prepared.

A compact 5’9” 175-pounder, Daly attributes some of that preparation to SUNY Plattsburgh. As a decathlete on the Cardinal track team, he placed fifth in the NCAA Division III national championships, shattering the school record with 6,786 points and earning All-American honors in 2007. Learning how to shake off one bad performance in the 10-event decathlon and go on to the next, “has helped me a ridiculous amount,” he says “It’s taught me to take training one day at a time and take each run one curve at a time.”

‘Your Daly Nitro’

Unfortunately, Daly is only able to shoot one video at a time for “Your Daly Nitro,” a series of short comedic skits he co-stars in with bobsledder Steve “Nitro” Langton and — occasionally — a blow-up doll. “We started it because we were bored,” he says, “and then we got good feedback.” He’s feeling pressure to do more.

But he doesn’t feel pressure to join the real world yet. After 2010, Daly decided to keep pushing limits. “I could have left the sport as an Olympian at 24 and started a job early, then retired at maybe 50 or 60 and enjoyed the next 10 years of my life,” he says. “Or I could enjoy the next 10 years of my life now. And I thought, 20 to 30 is a lot more fun than 50 to 60.”

Especially on a sled doing 70.

Photo of Luke CyphersAssistant Professor of Journalism James "Luke" Cyphers was a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where, for more than a decade, he covered stories on topics ranging from Japanese baseball to the use of the date-rape drug GHB in professional sports. A graduate of the University of Colorado and Columbia University, he also has worked as a copy editor for Dow Jones & Co. and as a sportswriter for the New York Daily News. He has covered high school championships, the NCAA Final Four, the U.S. Open (both tennis and golf), the Olympics, the Super Bowl and soccer's World Cup. His work has been honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors, the National Association of Black Journalists and the New York Silurian Society.