Name: Haley Daniels
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta
Sport: White Water Canoeing – Canoe Slalom
Years in the sport: On the National Team for 10, but in the sport for about 15.
*Note: This Interview was conducted in 2018!
How did you get started in your sport?
My family has always been connected to the outdoors where I grew up canoeing and kayaking the lakes and rivers of Canada. A family friend ran a kayak camp in crows nest pass and I attended for a week out there. Following the camp there was an opportunity to compete for fun at the National Championships that were on my local river in the Kananaskis Country. I fell in love with the people, sport and connection to the water and its basically history from there.
Goals for the next year?
2019 is a jam-packed year of competitions and training camps and the beginning of Olympic qualifiers. I recently had an exploratory surgery on my left shoulder (6 weeks ago) where I have only in this past week been back in my boat on flat water. I am beginning to get my strength back and feeling stronger each day, but I would say that one of my biggest goals is to be able to back on Whitewater in January where myself and some other team Canada members are headed to New Zealand and Australia.
The hope is by the time the season is under way I will be feeling strong and race ready. I have the 2019 Lima, Peru Pan American Games, qualify an Olympic spot for Canada at the continental Olympic qualifiers in La Seu d’Urgell, Spain at the World Championships and get to know and compete well at the Tokyo Test event in November in my sights.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In the next two years I will continue to put it all on the line in pursuit of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Regardless of the outcome I hope to finish my undergrad in Business Administration with a major in Marketing and a minor in Sociology. I am not sure if I will pursue another Olympic cycle but I would say time will tell to make a concise and final decision in terms of my next career steps.
Caroline Gleigch, she is a mountaineering athlete who is extremely passionate and dedicated to her sport and goals. She stands up for what she believes in on issues that are very relevant like climate change and global warming and cyber bullying. Her authenticity bleeds through every task she performs and although I have only met her once I admire her genuine approach.
What has been your biggest challenge as an athlete and how did you overcome it?
I have had many challenges both personally and as an athlete, but I would have to say two stand out in my mind.
Hardly any financial support in our sport – Although it has been stressful and time consuming to come up with unique ways to fundraise for my high yearly budget it has given me the opportunity to learn how to be an entrepreneur and build my network. Canoe slalom is an exciting sport to watch but unfortunately, we do not have the same visibility as other professional sports which means we rely on a small stipend from the Canadian government and then our own personal work. The hard thing is that almost six hours of my day are consumed by training both physically, mentally and recovery. That leaves little time to work but it is essential to be able to pay for the season. I have been fortunate to have jobs that have given me the flexibility of building my work day around my athletic schedule and light duties while in the competing season. Furthermore, I spend most of my off-season raising capital for the upcoming season through organized fundraisers, seeking sponsorship deals, private donations and grant or endowment applications.
Shoulder surgery – I am still currently in this transition I cannot successfully say that I have overcome it, but I have seen immense improvement in these past 6 weeks. It was an extremely hard decision to go through with surgery as it is the dawn of the Olympic qualifications, but I was experiencing so much chronic pain something had to be done. This rehabilitation period has been tolling, but it has taught be patience, the importance of rest, it ha given me an opportunity to rebuild muscle groups and movement patterns and more time spent watching video to identify areas that need improvement. My fingers are crossed I will achieve my goals of paddling on Whitewater in January 2019 as I get beet each day and I am dedicated to my physio and rehabilitation exercises.
Best advice that you have been given?
Less is more. Intentional movement is more powerful than quantity of unthoughtful technique.
Drawing, hiking, yoga, baking and cooking
90’s rap and indie, although I am not a big fan of the top 40 hits on the radio I can sing most of the current songs as I could not be bothered to plug in my music to my car while driving
What’s the best part of competing?
Instant feedback that all of the hard work you have put in has either paid off or needs tweaking. It has also given me the opportunity to travel the world and meet amazing people that will be life long friends.
If you could train with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
I have never really thought of this question. I do know that I have a fairly small training group in Calgary but I have many good friends who are in our sport across the world, having a fun and competitive training environment is important so I wish that I could train with athletes from other countries all year round.
If you could compete in another sport what would it be and why?
Surfing, I love the water so I would be happy to transition to another summer sport that revolves around a beach lifestyle.
Favourite place to compete?
New Zealand or Spain
Do you have any special warm up routine?
I always do yoga and meditate and journal before a race and have a banana 30 minutes before my start time.
What time is your alarm set for?
On most days 5:30 but with my shoulder surgery sleep has been an integral part of my recovery so I have been hitting the snooze button a little more to get that little extra sleep time.
Ice cream or cake?
I am lactose intolerant so if its dairy free, both?
What do you do on your rest days?
It is important for me to completely rest but I also like to get out and see the land and do something other than paddling so when I am home I will walk my dog Skoki, spend time with family and friends and if I am really tired Netflix and chill. When I am away I am off exploring the surrounding area so I don’t feel so cooped up from the routine week of training.
Last non food item you bought?
Booties for my dog as his paws have been cracking when I am running with him outside.
Do you have a lucky number?
Best thing you’ve done in the past 3 months?
Paddled!! It felt sooo good to get back on the water after 6 weeks of pining for that feeling.
Strangest thing you’ve ever witnessed?
A pair of ladies being belligerently drunk on a plane and being rude to the flight attendants and the caption did not put up with that and turned the plane around to have them arrested and escorted off the plane and then we took off to out destination again.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Being adaptable with be your best friend.
Scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Paddling a waterfall only by moonlight and not knowing where to take the proper stoked just doing it by intuition.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what one person and thing would you like to have?
My dog Skoki and a knife so I could be resourceful with what we had.
What would be your perfect meal?
I have a soft sport for avocado toast with a little sprinkled salt and a good almond milk flat white.
What performance are you most proud of?
Bronze Medal 2015 Pan American games, Toronto, Canada
Hardest sport moment you’ve had to push through?
This past 2018 season is up there, struggling with uncertainty of an injury while finding mental capacity to compete.
What have you learned from sport that has helped you in other parts of your life?
How to break down goals into bit sized realistic pieces and being regimented with organization. Really, I am the person I am today because of everything I have learned from all aspect of the highs and lows of sport.
Favourite place to eat?
Vegetarian restaurants with local veggies and unique meals
If you had to travel either forward in time or backward in time, which would you choose?
I love the style in the 1950’s but gender equality was not common speak than so I would say I want to travel to the future to see if we will drive hover cars or use teleportation.
What is the most unusual, challenging, or creative workout you’ve ever done?
This one time while we were training in the jungle in Mexico we were very far from a gym so we used logs for bench press, rocks for bicep curls and tress to do pull ups. It was actually very hard and I remember being very sore the next day.
Dream job besides an athlete?
Sports agent or Sponsorship Marketing specialist
What motivates you to keep training?
The chance at those five rings.
Favourite time of year?
Fall, I love the color and hiking to see the larch tree in the alpine.
Of all the people you have trained with over the years, from whom have you learned the most?
My coach Mike, he was on the National team for 10 years where he knows what it takes to be at that high level. He has helped me to see the bigger picture of how each day leads into the other but also to analyze each small detail to be better
How many hours do you train at a given week?
23 hours of physical training and then about another 10 hours of mental training.
Best memory you have from a time when you were training?
A lot of my good friends have retired from the Canadian National team as it gets hard to do high performance sport the older we get, but my favorite memories were when some of my good girl friends were paddling and we would laugh and laugh during each session which made it easy to grind together.
If you could trade places with anyone for a day who would it be?
Chris Hatfield because I think it would be pretty cool to travel to space.
Spiders in Space.
Anything people be surprised to learn about you?
I have broken or cracked almost 15 bones and had 5 surgeries.
Best movie and tv series?
Movie: Garden State
Tv Series: Scrubs
Favourite food while training?
What inspires you?
People who believe in what they do and passionately share that with others.
What do you enjoy most about your sport?
It gets me outside rain, shine or snow to some of the most beautiful places in the world.
Advise that you have for someone starting out?
Being an athlete will be the most rewarding thing you do, but don’t do it for others, do it because you love it and that’s what drives you. – Haley Daniels
What is the most crucial part of your training?
Technical training spent on Whitewater and gates
Anyone you would like to thank?
My coach Michael for all the early mornings, nonsense, and unconditional support.
Mom, Dad and my brother Hayden for my crazy diet restrictions, all the airport drop offs and pick-ups and for their love and complete foundational support.
My mentors who continue to give me valuable advice and give me constructive feedback to verify I am on the right track.
My physiotherapist Susan for training my messed-up body and guiding me to always be better for the past ten years.
My strength trainer John for his honest feedback, continued support and friendship.
My Mental coach Clare for introducing me to mindfulness and meditation, compartmentalizing and the mantra “I get to” versus “I have to”.
My financial supports who have given their hard-earned money to support a big dream.
Sponsors: Harmony lake community, MEC, Natura and Rushmere Canoe
We hope to be watching Haley Daniels competing in the Tokyo Olympics this Summer!
If you enjoyed out interview with Haley Daniels, be sure to give our interview with another Canadian, Noelle Montcalm!