St. John’s swimmer seen as a contender for four medals in Sherbrooke
By Robin Short
Telegram Sports Editor—Sherbrooke, Que.
Not to put any pressure on the kid, but these Canada Summer Games, from a Newfoundland point of view, could well belong to 17-year-old swimmer Owen Daly of St. John’s.
“He’s been very, very good,” said Newfoundland coach Brad Hutton at the Centre Sportif on the University of Sherbrooke campus Sunday. “At nationals in Montreal two weeks ago, and again at age groups last week, it’s the best he’s ever handled himself at meets. He swam best times in everything.
“I think this where it all comes together … this is where all the potential he’s had over the years comes to the top.”
Not since 1993, when Iain Tennent won gold and silver medals at the 1993 Kamloops, B.C., Summer Games, has Newfoundland seen a dominant swimming performance.
That could change here in Sherbrooke, and no one knows it any better than Daly himself, maybe the best young swimmer to come along since, well, Tennent, a chap who went on to carve out an outstanding collegiate career at the University of New Brunswick.
“Hopefully, I can do better,” Daly said of Tennent’s gold and silver trinkets. “I feel strong, I’m in a good mindset and hopefully I can get some hardware.
“I’m confident this is my time. It’s my time.”
At the senior nationals in Pointe-Claire, Que., in mid-July, Daly enjoyed the strongest performance in over 20 years by a Newfoundland swimmer at summer senior nationals, racing to three provincial records, but more impressively, winning a bronze medal in the 50 metre butterfly.
It was just his second senior national meet after attending the Canadian Olympic Trials in March, 2012.
A week after senior nationals, Daly won gold in the 50 fly and bronze in the 100 fly at the age group nationals in Montreal.
A 6-3, 190-pound physical specimen, Daly figures to contend for medals in the 50 and 100 fly and 50 and 100 free in Sherbrooke.
“I did exceptional at both,” Daly said of the Montreal meets. “I’ve had good swims here and there, but I wasn’t really consistent. But this meet, I’m hoping to bang at every race, go best time every race, make finals and get the gold in finals.”
It’s a different Owen Daly we’re seeing in Sherbrooke. Gone is the shy boy who’d rather ask a strange girl out on a date than chat with a reporter. Replacing him is the confident, well-spoken athlete who led the Newfoundland delegation into the opening ceremonies as the provincial flag bearer.
Daly has, despite the fact he’s 17 and competing in amateur sport, emerged as a pro.
“You can just tell the way he carries himself he’s a lot more confident,” Hutton said.
Want to know just how good Daly is? Consider this: NCAA Division I heavyweight universities Kentucky, Indiana, Florida State, Connecticut, Hawaii, among others, have all inquired for his services.
Which is bad news for Memorial University.
Daly had actually planned on staying in St. John’s and swimming for MUN, until he learned Hutton was leaving his posts as St. John’s Legends and Memorial varsity coach to take a coaching job in the Cayman Islands later this month (tough gig, huh?).
“I wanted to stay in St. John’s because Brad was staying, but that changes now,” Daly said.
“It’s an awesome job he couldn’t turn down.”
It may be too late to commit to a university and compete in the fall semester, but Daly is leaning towards deciding on a university, training with the swim team in the fall and start competing in the winter semester.
If the name Daly rings a bell with those who follow sport in Newfoundland, it should. His father, Chris, was a pretty fine swimmer himself, who was in the running for a berth for the 1980 Canadian Olympic team, before than all went south with the boycott of the Moscow Games.
Chris Daly was also the 1984 winner of the St. John’s Molson athlete of the year award.
“He’s had a huge influence on me,” the son said of the father. “He’s the one who got me into the sport, encouraged me along the way and it’s brought me great success.”
No kidding. To the point where Owen’s broken a few of the old man’s records.
“Yeah,” the youngster grinned, “it’s competitive chatter around dinner table. I’m competitive and certainly my Dad’s pretty competitive.
“He’s not strict or anything. But he likes to see us do well in sports.”
Hopefully, Chris Daly will be real happy this week.