Jyasi Daniel, a third-year science and business student, began swimming at five years old. Growing up in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, Daniel’s parents saw swimming as an essential life skill, and this was the initial reason he began learning how to swim alongside his brother.
“When I was 12, I started taking it more seriously,” Daniel explained. He began participating in regional competitions, and continued to grow his scope by participating in international competitions. Daniel was selected to compete in the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games held in Samoa and the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games held in the Bahamas. This was the largest international sporting event to ever be hosted in the Bahamas, with the greatest number of athletes to ever participate in the games. Daniel represented St. Lucia at both events.
In order to prepare for the event, Daniel trained for nine two-hour sessions a week while maintaining a strict diet, working on endurance and maintaining flexibility. “How you’re performing and how your times are when the competition comes is already decided in the way you are training in the weeks before,” Daniel said. “I think that’s my mentality with competition.”
Through travelling for competitions, Daniel became exposed to the various opportunities swimming could bring him. “I was able to gain that network of regional swimmers and also wanted to take it [swimming] to the collegiate level,” Daniel said. “I think that’s where I also found motivation to apply to schools in the U.S.”
Daniel attended a boarding school in New Jersey from 2016 to 2018. During his time in the U.S., Daniel got in contact with the University of Waterloo’s swim coach and began the recruitment process. Daniel said he accepted his offer into the science and business program at UW because the school would challenge him academically and in his career as a swimmer.
Prior to the pandemic, Daniel would swim six to seven times a week, attend weekly gym sessions with the team and train on his own. “It’s interesting because you have to balance out school, time for yourself and sleep. It’s hard and sometimes you don’t get it all fired down,” Daniel said. “It’s also fun when you’re really exceeding yourself, and oftentimes it’s impossible. Sometimes, everything falls into place and you feel really good.”
Daniel competed during in-season swimming and divisionals, from September to February or March, depending on the athletes’ selection into U Sports. In 2018, Daniel’s first year of university, the team’s training camp took place in Florida and then in Jamaica during his second year.
“I think it’s a very good bonding experience. It’s not within school time, so you get to know each other outside of academics, but outside of swimming too,” Daniel said.
In addition to swimming, Daniel is a part of The Alliance, “a progressive group of University of Waterloo staff and students working together to use their voices and platforms to create change within the Waterloo network.”
The Alliance’s mission is “to establish positive systemic changes for the University of Waterloo BIPOC community through recognition of, education towards, and action against racism.” Its vision is “actively striving to lead by example, providing direction and inspiration to all community members to create change in a relentless pursuit of equity for all.”
Daniel is responsible for hosting events as part of The Alliance, called “Expression Sessions” where students and faculty are invited to voice their opinions on what can be done to “address the racial dynamic in the community.
“I think the expression session is a very good step towards being more empathetic and more aware of our internal biases and to address them. I think that’s how you shed light on racism. I’ve also found many connections between racism and sexism,” Daniel said. “Just becoming a better human being, doing what you think would help society and overall becoming a better person. I think that’s what the expression sessions are geared toward.”
“When I was five, I didn’t think I’d be swimming collegiately. Over the years, my goals changed and improved. I think one thing I realized about swimming, or maybe sports in general is even if you do everything perfectly to the tee, you may not get the exact result that you want, and that’s life. It really is important to not be as attached to the outcome, but rather enjoy the journey.”