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Sliding headfirst to Sochi

John Daly began working in middle school toward the two days of competition next week in Sochi where he hopes to win an Olympic medal in skeleton.

He already had set out on that course when he enrolled at Plattsburgh State, having made the U.S. developmental team in the luge and then switching to skeleton.

Daly enrolled at Plattsburgh State largely because of its proximity to Lake Placid, the U.S. training facility for sled sports. But the university offered a degree in the profession (sports marketing or advertising) he is looking toward once his years of competition are over, and the Cardinal track and field program provided him with coaching and a venue for strengthening himself athletically.

Before graduation, he set school records in the indoor pentathlon and outdoor decathlon – the later mark set during the 2007 Division III Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships, where he placed fifth in the event to earn all-American honors and also recorded the school record in the long jump.

The decathlon also prepared him mentally for the challenges of World Cup and Olympic competition in skeleton – an event in which competitors slide headfirst through a one-mile winding course at speeds up to 90 miles per hour.

Daly recently told the Plattsburgh State alumni newsletter, Calling Card, that the decathlon taught him how to shake off a bad performance in one of the sport’s 10 events and tackle the next.

“It’s taught me to take training one day at a time and take each run one curve at a time,” he told Plattsburgh State journalism professor Luke Cyphers.

Sochi will be Daly’s second Olympics. He placed 17th on the fast track in Vancouver at age 24 -- the second youngest entrant in the event. “I went all or nothing, and all or nothing bit me,” he told Cyphers, adding he feels much better prepared this time around.

His recent performances support that belief. He finished a career-best fourth place at his most recent World Cup competition in Lake Placid, and thinks that steering out of a curve a fraction of a second too soon – thus slowing the sled – cost him a second-place finish.

He also finished fifth at the 2013 World Championships in Switzerland, and posted a pair of fifth-place finishes en route to ranking eighth overall in the recently concluded World Cup season.

With those credentials, Daly appears to be in the mix for a medal during the February 14-15 competition at Sochi. Americans last claimed an Olympic medal in skeleton in 2002.