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Canadian triathlete Stefan Daniel’s journey to the Paralympics

Canadian triathlete Stefan Daniel’s journey to the Paralympics
(Courtesy: @sdaniel97/Twitter)

CALGARY, Alberta — “Don’t let anyone tell you can’t do something,” said Stefan Daniel, a Canadian para athlete who won the world championships four times. Stefan made history, becoming the first Canadian triathlete to ever win a silver medal. He came in behind Martin Schutz of Germany in the Summer Paralympic Games held in Rio, 2016, and was one of the youngest competitors.

Although the 24-year-old Calgarian was born with bilateral radial club hands (the right arm is shorter than the left arm), he has never considered himself disabled. Stefan’s inspiration in sports was none other than his family. Both his parents were athletes. His father was an Ironman racer and his mother took part in the marathons.

His great inspiration was his elder brother, Christian Daniel, who was born with cerebral palsy and was also a member of Canada’s Paralympic swimming team.

“My brother was one of the slower swimmers in the club, but he always had a smile on his face, always worked harder than everyone else,” Stefan said. “It rubbed off on me. He didn’t care what he had, he just wanted to do the best he could with what he had.”

Stefan started his marathon with high school sports and his first para-triathlon world championship in 2013 at the age of 16 and medaled with bronze. His dream season was 2015 in which he won the gold medal by defeating his biggest rival, Martin Schultz. Stefan completed the 2017 season by winning six gold medals.

He also competed in cross country running while playing for the University of Calgary in U SPORTS. His team, the Calgary Dinos, achieved two titles in consecutive years (2018 and 2019). In the 2019 world championship held in Lausanne, Switzerland, he successfully earned his fourth championship title.

When he joined the University of Calgary, the Dinos didn’t have great leadership. Stefan helped the Dinos to achieve the most wins.

“He’s the glue of the team. He got us through the tough times,” Dough Lamont, Calgary coach, said of Stefan. “When Stefan came onto campus and we got the silver medal in Victoria, it was because we had a strong team. The following year in Kingston, they were willing to put themselves on the line for each other, and we won for the first time.”

Like his brother, Christian, Stefan also used to swim and had experience competing in Para-swimming. Both brothers’ days start at 4.45 a.m. for swim practice, then school and swim practice again in the evening. When Stefan medaled in Paralympics, he turned his focus on the triathlon. However, he managed to continue both with great determination.

“Running has always been my favorite part of triathlon and my number one passion,” Stefan said. “But I didn’t want to give up swimming.”

“He’s never used his disability as a crutch,” his father, Chris, said. “That alone makes me proud of what he does. Everything else is a bonus. I loved him competing at any level. Whether he did well or poorly, I just loved the fact that he did it.”

Stefan (59:22) medaled with bronze behind Schultz (58:10) and Peasgood (58:55) in the 2021 Paralympic Games held in Tokyo.

“My first reaction was a bit of disappointment, but honestly these are the best guys in the world and there is no room for error so I’m pretty proud of my efforts today,” Stefan said. “I gave absolutely everything I had on the day and that was good enough for bronze. I had to earn that bronze today.”

Stefan’s journey with his brother, Christian, will continue to inspire sports fans across the country and the world. Their potential is unlimited.

This is an unedited user writing submission. The views, information, or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Best Version Media or its employees.

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