Smithtown's John Daly is on course with skeleton
"The first time in my life," Olympian John Daly noted, that their identities were thus reversed.
The John Daly of whom Olympic news speaks is 24 years old, hails from Smithtown, was a top-flight track and field decathlete in college and, on Friday night, will giddily march into the Opening Ceremonies at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He will compete at the Games next Thursday and Friday.
He is not to be confused with the 43-year-old, long-ball-hitting golfer bedeviled by alcohol, gambling and marital problems. It's just that the older Daly was at his peak on the PGA Tour when Long Island's John Daly first got the wise-acre questions.
"My first time someone said something," the Olympian said, "was when I was competing in the standing long jump in fourth grade. A guy there said, 'You play golf much?' I didn't get the joke."
At Smithtown High School, he competed in pentathlons - 110-meter hurdles, high jump, shot jump, long jump and 1500 - before graduating to the traditional 10-event decathlon. His first Winter Olympics awareness came from his mother.
"She knew everything about every athlete, every team," he said. "She dialed me into the Olympics. I realized, if my mother could know all these things, the Olympics has to be bigger than some normal sporting event. Every time the U.S. won, she'd jump up and say, 'We won.' "
A middle school gym teacher introduced Daly to the luge sled, and he qualified for a training camp in Lake Placid, where he soon switched to the skeleton - a head-first sledding event. His appetite for that sport prompted him to attend upstate SUNY Plattsburgh, where he could continue his decathlon career while also training for skeleton.
Now he's part of one of sport's most high-profile events. Maybe someone will ask the other John Daly if he's ever competed in skeleton.