While the Winter Olympics are in full swing in Beijing, United’s Fish Creek community brought in Olympian Haley Daniels to speak with residents about resiliency and how to overcome obstacles. Haley’s talk is another example of the quality and diversity of speakers and topics that United includes in our regular programming.
Haley has faced no shortage of obstacles in her young life, including a gender equality battle that kept her from competing in the traditional male Olympic sport of canoe slalom – until she won a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto and a gold in the 2018 Pan American Championships. Women were finally allowed to compete in the canoe slalom event at the 2020/2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“I worked toward competing in the Olympics my whole life, but I had to postpone my dream until the Tokyo Olympics. Setbacks and obstacles are part of life, but every time I’ve had a roadblock, it has made me stronger,” said Haley. “There’s a big difference between saying ‘I have to do this today’ compared to ‘I get to do this today’. The latter builds passion and desire to achieve whatever your goal in life is.”
A shock that Haley had to accept and integrate into her life was when Haley’s father Kimberly Daniels came out to the family as a Transgender woman. She was the first openly Transgender judge to ever officiate at the Olympic Games.
“That was something that was difficult to process in the beginning, but today I’m very accepting and supportive of my father’s choice. My mother always told me that experience is not what happens to you; experience is what you do with what happens to you. I find that inspiring and I’ve carried that attitude with me throughout my life.”
Resident Elaine Foo was impressed with Haley’s attitude. “I’ve always admired people who have gone through adversity and kept going. It warms my heart to see gender equality taking place more and more in sports and business. What impressed me was her positivity in the face of all these obstacles, and to find out her father is Transgender – to recognize that and take it in stride was impressive.”
“All of these hurdles have helped give me clarity about what I do. I know I’m on the right path. Compassion and gratitude make a big impact. If you really want something, no obstacle can stand in your way. There is more to be done in the area of gender equality. Women’s hockey and basketball are just two sports where inroads have been made but more needs to be done.”
Haley is off soon to Paris to train towards earning a spot on the Olympic team for the Paris Olympics in 2024. In the meantime, she is also preparing to become a firefighter…after all, in a way, she’s been fighting Olympic-sized fires her whole life.
Photos by Haley Daniels. Videos by Sherana Productions.
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