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Stefan Daniel on his second world title in Rotterdam: “I knew I had gold within the first few steps”

Catching up with the now two-time world champion, 20-year-old Stefan Daniel.

Currently one of Canada’s most decorated short course triathletes, Calgary’s Stefan Daniel, who competes in the PT4 category in paratriathlon, recently claimed his second world title at the ITU Grand Final in Rotterdam. The 20-year-old was pleased with his performance after year of hard and consistent work, and the disappointment of not earning gold in the Rio Paralympics last summer.

“The whole field from Rio was in Rotterdam,” Daniel says of his race. “Everything in training went really well this year, so I knew I could get gold if everything came together on race day.”

Daniel’s lead-up into the world championship race during race week, however, was less than ideal.

“It was pouring rain and really, so I didn’t get the chance to ride the course ahead of time which wasn’t great, because it’s a very technical course,” he explains. “It was important to stay safe ahead of the race.”

The race itself played out exactly as Daniel hoped.

“The swim went well, I stuck with Rio gold medalist (Germany’s Henri Schulz)… on the bike I had to figure it out on the fly, but I got through the first lap safely and maintained lead. All I wanted to do on the bike was avoid crashes, and not go crazy on corners. The bike is really important in paratriathlon. In Rio that’s where I got exposed pretty badly.”

Early into the run, the University of Calgary cross-country runner knew he had the win within his grasp.

“Within a few steps, I knew I had it,” he says.

Now a two-time world champion and Paralympic silver medallist, Daniel’s world has changed dramatically. He gained big sponsorships in Nike and Garmin last year and has been the face of paratriathlon in Canada, as well as recognizable on the international stage for his success.

“My [world championship] win in 2015 was a shock,” Daniel says. “I was so young at the time and I hadn’t beat Schulz before. I wasn’t too stoked on my performance in Rio, but certainly after those two races things changed a lot. I didn’t have any sponsors before. I’ve had tons of media opportunities since then, I got to meet Justin Trudeau after Rio, and I’ve developed a bigger following.”

Under the guidance of coach Carolyn Murray, Daniel is continuing his training with Tokyo in mind.

“I’ve moved back to Calgary now [from the high performance centre in Victoria, B.C.] but Carolyn has been great at keeping me from afar,” he says. He’s also excited to see how paratriathlon has been really growing and seeing success in Canada over the past few years. “It’s great to see so many new athletes get recruited. It’s an exciting time for sure.”

You can follow Daniel’s training and racing on Instagram.