In a book of memories Olympic slider John Daly created in fifth grade, the only year he spent at Smithtown Elementary school, he had a winter sport in mind for his future.

His dream, he wrote, was to play hockey for the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I guess that was the sport I always saw myself going further in," said Daly, who finished 17th in the men's skeleton at the Vancouver Olympics. "Track is what I love, skeleton's what I do. But winter sports, something's always attracted me to the winter sports . . . There are more obscure sports."

Daly, 24, arrived home only on Monday from Vancouver, where he was Long Island's sole competitor in the Winter Olympics. He was so drained that he went to bed at 10 p.m. that night and slept until 3 on Tuesday afternoon.

On Saturday afternoon, a night after going out with friends for the first time, Daly made his first public appearance: at Smithtown elementary's annual fair, complete with a Winter Olympics theme.

Forty minutes into an autograph session, Daly's table had been moved back to better accommodate a snaking line, and he was signing his name on printer paper because 100 stock photos had already been dispensed.

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Garrett VanderBrink, a sixth grader who graduated from Smithtown a year ago, waited in line with his father and three brothers: two current Smithtown students and one who is to start in the fall.

"We kept talking about him, what it would be like," said VanderBrink, who wore a Yankees cap and sweatshirt and said he had his own pro dreams.

"They're just having fun man, you know?" Daly said. "It makes me proud to be from this town. There's the excitement they show, it's inspiring. I'm glad they're interested: the Olympics have been losing out money and viewers to reality shows and things like that. To see people are interested and still want to get involved, it's great."

Daly's stay at home is likely to be short: he could head to Moscow for the March 16-opening of a new sled track, or he could go to Lake Placid, which he would prefer. Kristen, Daly's 22-year-old sister, sat next to him at the autograph table and said she was glad to have John home. She was in the car on the way to Vancouver with their parents when John called their father to tell them that 21-year-old luger Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia had died on the track he was to compete on.

"It was nerve-racking. John did a good job of calming everybody down," Kristen said. "It's always nerve-racking to watch - they go so fast."


Looking back, Daly said he'll be better prepared to deal with the "hype and noise" of the 2014 Olympics, where earning a medal is his ultimate goal. He was not disappointed, however, with his on-track performance.

"The Olympics are awesome, there's no other competition like that," he said. "Seventeenth there, I'm happy with that."