An elite cross-country runner and triathlete from Cochrane supports the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to pump the brakes on the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, which were slated to take place in Tokyo, Japan this July.
After weeks of speculation and mounting pressure from the international sporting community, the IOC officially announced March 23 the Summer Olympics would be postponed until 2021, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"It’s tough for all the athletes, but it’s the right decision and I support it 100 per cent," said Stefan Daniel, a 23-year-old Cochrane athlete who was set to represent Canada in the para-triathlon competition.
"We can now properly isolate without any stress of needing to be in peak form. As an athlete, my job is to be ready to race whenever I’m called upon. If that happens to be in 2021, I’ll be ready to go.”
Stefan, who graduated from St. Timothy School in Cochrane, has already achieved a number of accolades in both high-level cross-country running and triathlon; he’s a three-time winner at the Para-triathlon World Championships and a top-10 finisher in the U SPORTS National Cross Country Championships in 2019, as a member of the University of Calgary Dinos.
He earned a silver medal at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – the first Canadian to make the podium in the event. He was also named Triathlon Canada’s Triathlete of the Year in 2018 and 2017.
Despite the disappointment of knowing he won’t get the chance to go for gold in Tokyo this summer and improve on his showing from Brazil, Daniel said he’s looking at the postponement as a “blessing in disguise.” He said he’ll use the additional time to continue training, with an emphasis on improving his cycling and running.
"I’m riding indoors and trying my best to use all the free time to improve my weakness,” he said. “It’s a challenge to keep the competitive mindset, but having something new to focus on makes it much easier.
"Not only can I take more time to develop my strength on the bike, but now I can really take my time with my return to full running. I’m still building up my running after sustaining a navicular (mid-foot) stress fracture in the fall. Rehab is going well, but it’s nice to know I have more than enough time to get run-fit before I race."
Long term, he said, qualifying for the Olympics in 2024 or 2028 is his ultimate objective.
"I need to continue to progress in all areas in order to make the Olympics one day, but I’ve had solid progression over the past year and it’s getting to be a more realistic goal,” he said. “I still have a ways to go, and who knows if I’ll be able to make it, but I owe it to myself to try."
–With files from Troy Durrell/Cochrane Eagle
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