Published: 26th of April, 2023 by Patrick Carpen.Last updated: May 9, 2023 at 16:58 pm
Growing up in poorly-equipped Guyana, South America has presented quite a few challenges to ambitious swimmer Daniel Claxton, but in spite of this, he has managed to keep his head above water – until he got a call for Spire Academy – a call which helped him take his abilities to the next level. This is story of Guyanese born swimmer and student Daniel Claxton who hopes to take Guyana to the Olympics come 2024.
Guyanese born Daniel Claxton is not one to back down from a challenge. In fact, his entire athletic journey has been fraught with obstacle after obstacle…but he would never overstate that. Instead, he talks of rolling with the punches & taking the opportunity to learn more about himself in the pursuit of growth.
Though he began learning about swimming & water safety in 2015, he did not participate competitively on a regular basis until 2018. Even then, finding the proper training center was a challenge – there is only one competitive pool in his homeland, Guyana, and it is located in a region quite far from Daniel’s hometown of La Parfaite Harmonie. Nonetheless, Daniel & his family were determined to get him the proper training and equipment, no matter if it were a long drive or they had to take a boat in between.
In August of 2019, Daniel hit a milestone competitive swim – representing Guyana in the Suriname Goodwill Games, but just as he was beginning to build momentum, the COVID pandemic shut down the training facility & canceled all swim meets for over a year. However, Daniel did not let this setback get in the way of pursuing his athletic goals – he trained on land to maintain his strength & set out to get back in the water as soon as possible. And in 2021, Daniel represented Guyana in the Bahamas National Invitational Swimming Championship as well as the Junior South American Swimming Championship in Peru. Daniel credits the latter as an integral building block in his development – he saw just how tough the international competition was & how much faster he needed to get.
Shortly after in April of 2022, Daniel flew to Barbados to represent Guyana in the XXXV Carifta Swimming Championship – another milestone achievement for the young swimmer – but it was here where Daniel & his father understood that he needed a dedicated training program so that he could reach his full potential.
Attending a Swimming Camp at SPIRE Academy
While on vacation in New York, Daniel received a call from Thad Schultz, Aquatics Director and Head Swim Coach, about a scholarship to SPIRE Acadmey. Instead of returning home, Daniel journeyed to SPIRE to begin training.
Daniel was thrilled at the chance to dedicate himself fully to his sport for an extended period of time & began arranging travel plans, including a one-week vacation in New York after the camp. The camp allowed Daniel to spend time getting to know SPIRE’s Swim Director, Thad Schultz, as well as seeing if SPIRE’s program could be a good fit for his needs, both athletic & academic. After completing the three-week program, Daniel traveled to New York for a short vacation – & it was during this period that his father received a call from SPIRE offering a scholarship to the program for one year. Daniel canceled his flight back home & instead rerouted his way back to the SPIRE facilities in preparation for his next big step in his development. It was difficult to not return home first to gather his things or say goodbye to his family & friends, but they knew that this was an opportunity that Daniel had to seize immediately.
Various Meets Along the Way
Once at SPIRE, Daniel found himself quickly integrated into the regiment – morning training, classes, afternoon training, homework, repeat. He notes that SPIRE is a melting pot of culture, hosting student athletes from around the world who share the same goal – to develop their natural athletic abilities in preparation for the next level of competition. Daniel even says that once he got through his first cold winter, he actually learned to love the snow!
Daniel credits the one on one, more personalized training experience as one of the reasons he has been able to decrease his times & continue gaining exposure in the sport. Speaking on Coach Thad Schultz, Daniel respects that he not only recognizes strengths, but points out weaknesses & creates a plan on how to work on them. Additionally, he appreciates how Coach Schultz cares about each individual student outside of the water – asking how each is doing in class, in life, continually checking in to make sure each student athlete is doing well outside of the sport. Part of what makes SPIRE’s athletic program special is its attention to the mental aspect of the game – how the mental wellbeing of the athlete feeds into the physical performance.
One meet in particular sticks in Daniel’s mind, the 36th Annual Black History Invitational in February of 2023. Before even leaving for the long drive to DC, Daniel & his roommate fell ill & were not sure if they would even participate. After some thought, he decided to ride down & see how it all played out. Arriving at the facility, Daniel, his team, & other visiting athletes kept mentioning how hard it was to breathe. It was later discovered that there was a ventilation issue causing the chemicals coming from the pool water to stay in the air longer than normal, & was presenting these aforementioned side effects. Despite all of these hurdles, Daniel was able to make two final races, his first since arriving at SPIRE – all in front of his family back home over live video feeds. Then in March of 2023, at the USA Swimming Senior Championships, Daniel set personal bests in all events he competed in & even made it to the finals in three of his events despite the not so ideal pool conditions. His teammates & coaches congratulated him afterwards for such a strong output by the swimmer.
Daniel has learned a lot about himself in his short time at SPIRE…”You have no limits. Just keep pushing…it’s okay to not feel okay.” It’s this attitude that makes him a unique athlete, one that is clearly more mature beyond his age. Daniel cites his swimming hero Caeleb Dressel as his main inspiration but understands that different things work for different people. He continues, “SPIRE has really enforced being mentally strong & being adaptive…how to be balanced.”
Post-SPIRE, Daniel plans on attending a university in the United States to pursue both swimming & a degree in Environmental Science. He is hard at work training to make NCAA cuts & join the university’s swim team. Outside of that, he wants to be the few Guyanese swimmers to make it to the Olympics & has his sights set on both the 2024 & 2028 games. There have only ever been 7 Guyanese swimmers in Olympic history.
Daniel plans on returning back to his home country of Guyana & wants to share his experience with young athletes. Being a role model for the younger generation is important to Daniel, “I know it is really hard (to get proper training) in Guyana…there’s always some challenge. I want to show them you can go through all this & still come out (on top).”
Special thanks to Spire Academy for their cooperation in helping us complete this beautiful article.