In 1999, I remember watching John Daly in his semi at the NBL Grand Nationals. He became unclipped out of the gate (something that would have put anyone else out of the race.) But that didn't happen to John. Instead, he powered his way down the first straight, catching the back of the pack, and by the second turn, was in a qualifying spot. And then, he washed out and took himself out of the running. He was 13 years old at the time.
The 2000 Grand Nationals were much more dramatic for John. During his practice session, pedaling as hard as he could at the second straight, the person he was following fell on the lip of the first double, and with nowhere to go, John hit him full force at the top of the lip, leaving his bike behind and careening though the air as if he could fly. That would be the last time that John raced BMX. Suffering broken wrists in both arms, in what I must say was the most spectacular fall I have ever seen; it just wasn't worth the risk.
It was right around that time that John was introduced to the sledding world. John had spoken about training for the Junior Olympics around that time, as well as being an avid Track and Field participant. So, upon the recommendation of his gym teacher, John visited the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. to check out bobsledding. It was there that he saw the Skeleton Luge and knew where he needed to be.
With BMX out of the picture, and Skeleton Luge emerging as John's driving force, decisions were made to keep John training as much as possible. After graduating high school in 2003, John decided to attend SUNY Plattsburg, keeping him close to his training grounds. Juggling Luge and class, John began competing internationally with the U.S. Open team five years ago. Once he graduated college in 2008 with a degree in communications, John immediately moved to the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. and has resided there since, training, and hoping to one day be able to call himself an Olympian.
Like anyone else, there were ups and downs along the way. Close to being knocked off the U.S. Open team, John turned everything around for himself in the past few months and entered a hot streak. Much like his performance at the 1999 Grands, John came back full force. And in the process, he went from sitting in the bubble position on the U.S. Open team to capturing six consecutive gold medals in his last six U.S. Open events. This secured the USA a third sled in the 2010 Winter Olympics, and gave John the much deserved seat in that third sled.
On behalf of everyone here at ESPN BMX, and the country, good luck John, kill it up North.