Vail’s Will Daly going to Beijing
PRINCETON, N.J. ” Eagle County has produced its share of Winter Olympians ” Chad Fleischer, Sarah Schleper, Lindsey Kildow, and most notably, Toby Dawson, who earned a bronze medal at the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy.
The Summer Olympics are a different story. That is, until this week when Will Daly, originally from Vail, made the U.S. Rowing Team for the upcoming Summer Games in Beijing.
“A first, it definitely took a while to sink in,” Daly said from Princeton, N.J., where the team is training. “It’s been a life-long dream ever since I was little growing up in Vail watching Olympic ski racing. It’s the Summer Olympics instead.”
Daly, who will turn 25 on Aug. 2, six days before the Opening Ceremonies of this summer’s Olympics, will be competing with Tom Paradiso (Blue Bell, Pa.), Patrick Todd (Cincinnati) and Mike Altman (Marin County, Calif.) in the lightweight men’s four event, where four rowers weighing an average of 70 kilograms or 155 pounds and no individual weighing more than 72.5 kilograms (159 pounds), race 2 kilometers (1.24 miles).
Daly and company will begin competition on Aug. 11 at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoe Park, located 27 miles outside of Beijing.
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Daly leaves Princeton July 19 for Austria and a World Cup event and continues his eastward trek to Beijing July 29.
Meanwhile, the scramble is on for his parents, Andy and Lucinda, and younger brother, Drew, to get to China for the Games.
“Oh yes, we wouldn’t miss it,” said Andy, who was president for 10 years of Vail Resorts and is now a Vail Town Council member. “The biggest challenge is to have a place to stay ” then we can take care of visas. Hopefully, by tonight, we have that taken care of.”
Even if Eagle County were a breeding ground for the Summer Games, odds are rowing wouldn’t be the sport. Will Daly attended the Vail Mountain School through eighth grade before heading east to Kent School in Connecticut.
As most kids do who leave this area, Daly found Kent to be a different world. His freshman-year biology teacher also happened to be the school’s crew coach and Daly started rowing.
“The school has a long history of rowing,” Daly said. “I think 2009 will be 100 years of rowing at the school. Crew is the big thing there. If you’re a guy, come spring, you play lacrosse, baseball or do crew. I wasn’t so good at hand-eye coordination, so it was rowing, and I loved it.”
Daly went on to attend and graduate from Boston University in 2006 with a business degree. While near the Charles River, where B.U. competes, Daly started to realize his potential. In the spring of 2005, the Terriers had their best showing at nationals, finishing sixth, and Daly earned a spot on the U-23 National Team.
Since the water in the north east freezes in the winter, Daly continued to work out on an Erg Rowing Machine, while working at an equity firm in Boston. His 2K time dropped from 6 minutes, 25 seconds to 6:15.3, and Daly knew he was on to something.
He won the National Selection Regatta No. 2, a two-man race, in Princeton, and got the news June 25 that he was on his way to Beijing.
“I worked really hard,” Daly said. “In a way, I was fortunate with everything. There are ebbs and flows even at the top level of athletics. You can have a good run of games and then have a bad stroke of luck. I was fortunate to be consistent through the selection process.”
With lightweight men’s four rowing consisting of four athletes of relatively the same size ” Daly is 6 foot 3 and 155 pounds ” each member has a role.
Paradiso is the stroke man who sits at the back of the boat, so he’s actually facing forward. The stroke man is in charge of the boat’s rhythm and pace. Altman is bow man, responsible for making sure the boat is level and for belting out the instructions of the team’s race plan.
Seat Nos. 2 and 3 comprise what is called the engine ” the power of the boat. In Seat No. 3 is Daly and No. 2 is Todd.
The quartet finished eighth at the World Championships in Lucerne, Switzerland earlier this year.
Rowing is an uphill or upriver battle for the Americans in this event. The best a quartet has done was Silver in the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
“In Lucerne, we got eighth,” Daly said. “We were still trying to build our crew, and our coach put limits on us. He wanted to see our base speed. As the youngest guy on the boat, I really wanted to hammer away at it and got real frustrated. I think we have real potential to do really well. Everyone feels that way. In our racing, we’ve put down times that are right at or below world-record pace.”
The Olympic experience
Daly has traveled around the world, but not to China. Since the Games start Aug. 8 and the rowing competition doesn’t begin until the 11th, he hopes to walk in the Parade of Nations in the Opening Ceremonies.
He attended the lighting of the torch in Salt Lake City in 2002 for the Winter Games.
“All the potential athletes for the team met at a conference in January,” Daly said. “I met other athletes from other sports who have been to the Olympics and they said that I’ve got to see the Opening Ceremony. I can only imagine what it would be like.”
Having the games in Beijing has stirred some controversy because of China’s actions in Tibet and Darfur among other issues, but Daly is excited to see what the world’s most populous nation is all about and soak in the Olympic experience is like.
“I think it’s going to be really exciting,” he said. “The Chinese are really going to be showing the country to the world and want to show what a great nation it’s become. I just have pictures of people being friendly, language barriers aside.
“A huge part of the Olympics is doing well, but a central part is that not everyone gets to go to the Olympics. It’s so much more important to be there with all the athletes with everyone celebrating sports in life.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.