PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Courage and resilience are in John Daly’s blood. After all, he’s the son of a retired FDNY medic.
Four years ago at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, American skeleton slider Daly glided across the finish line with his head in his hands. Coming into the fourth heat, the last one of the event, he was in third place. At the start of the final his runners popped out of the track’s grooves, slowing down his speed and dropping him to a 15th-place finish.
A devastated Daly retired from skeleton for three years. While on a date during his hiatus, Daly faced a question he didn’t know how to answer: “What are you passionate about?” That’s when he knew it was time to revive his career — and he did it in time to qualify for the Pyeongchang Olympics in a quest for redemption.
“This is the moment I thought was forgotten and gone forever,” the Smithtown, Long Island, native told amNewYork. “I’m trying to enjoy it as much as possible and live in the moment.”
Jim Daly, John’s father, watched his son emerge from painful setbacks more than once. That includes the time when a teenage Daly broke both of his wrists while BMX racing at the Grand Nationals in Kentucky. The injuries required surgery, leaving Daly in two casts, but didn’t hold him back for long.
“He was jumping out of a tree two days later,” Jim Daly said. “And then the pin in his wrist, they had to pull it out with a pair of pliers and redo it. That was John.”
The elder Daly comes from a family of law enforcement officials, including his brother and father, who worked for the NYPD. His other son, Jim Jr., is a Rikers Island corrections officer. Although John Daly never had an interest in pursuing a career in law enforcement, he admires his father’s insight and levelheadedness.
“He always just had the answer,” said John Daly, 32, recalling the moment he shared with his father after his disappointing run in Sochi. “He grabbed me, held my face, and said, ‘John, what happens here today will make you the man you are tomorrow.’ ”
When the three-time Olympian’s event in Pyeongchang begins Thursday, Jim Daly trusts that his son will find the closure he seeks.
“[If there’s] one thing I’ve ever learned about John: Don’t ever count him out,” Jim Daly said. “He can rise to the occasion, and he does.”