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Daniel Romanchuk racing

A Few Minutes With Daniel Romanchuk

Vince Lara, media relations specialist at the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois, spends a few minutes with Daniel Romanchuk, 2016 Paralympian who's training at Illinois for a spot in the 2020 games in Tokyo.

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VINCE LARA: Hello. This has Vince Lara and the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois. Today, I spent a few minutes with Daniel Romanchuk, 2016 Paralympian who's training at Illinois for a spot in the 2020 games in Tokyo. All right. I'm speaking with Daniel Romanchuk who is a 2020 Paralympic trainee hoping to make the team for the Tokyo games. So, Daniel, you started with the Bennett Blazers. But I want to go back a little bit before that. When did you know that sports was something you wanted to do?

DANIEL ROMANCHUK: Ooh. So I started with the Bennett Blazers when I was two years old. Sports has always just been a part of my life. So I'm not sure if there was ever really a moment where I was like, oh, I want to play sports. I got started in wheelchair racing with the Bennett Blazers when I was, I believe, around four years old.

VINCE LARA: Wow.

DANIEL ROMANCHUK: And, so yeah. With that program, a lot of kids just tried everything. You didn't have to really stay in anything, but you'd try it to see if you'd like it and kind of just go from there. If you liked it, of course you can stay in it. Also I think a little bit with your question, their motto is actually, tell kids they can before they're told they can't.

VINCE LARA: Wow, that's great.

DANIEL ROMANCHUK: We're athletes. And so there's never really been, to me, oh, well I can't play basketball. I can't do this. There's really never been any of that really in my life.

VINCE LARA: Which is great. You're from Maryland, which is where the Bennett Blazers are located. But how did you end up training here at Illinois? And is it a testament to Coach Bleakney that you ended up here? Had you known about Coach Bleakney before getting here?

DANIEL ROMANCHUK: So I grew up in the Mount Airy, Maryland, about a half hour outside of Baltimore where the sports program was located. And then it was just over four years ago that I was training all on my own. We'd eventually gotten in contact.

We had asked the high performance director, at that time, are there any training facilities or anything that I maybe can go train at? Because I wanted to try and make the 2016 games. And so after them kind of looking around a bit, we got put in contact with Adam Bleakney. And so he had let me come out and train, at first kind of intermittently. And then we moved out here.

VINCE LARA: Wow. When you say you were training on your own, how did you even know how to train?

DANIEL ROMANCHUK: I would say my mom did a lot of that. So we would just basically go out to there's a cul-de-sac that I would just do repeats on. It was a slight hill. And so I would just go out and do repeats of about 200 meters long. And then, eventually, just going out on the road.

I would just kind of push. I especially did not know any training methods. I didn't know anything about taper or any of the phases or anything of training. And so we would just kind of go out on rides at that point.

VINCE LARA: Had you watched the Paralympic Games, and is that what gave you the idea, oh, I need to do 200's or whatever training you had done on your own?

DANIEL ROMANCHUK: I would say really it was kind of my mom that, at that time, was sort of guiding training. But yeah, they are one of the very few sports that I actually watched-- the Olympic and Paralympic Games. So yeah. I don't remember when I first watched it, but I do remember Beijing, and Tatyana McFadden, Josh George, and a number of other Paralympic racers, and other sports, as well.

So a number of other athletes had come through the Bennett Blazers sports program. And they had come back. Even after they're gone off to college or whatever, they would come back every once in a while to kind of just come back-- of course, say hi, and then just help the next generation along. And so that's something I like to do when I can, is to get back and help bring along the next generation.

So I wouldn't necessarily say when I first saw the games that I wanted to go. I'd probably say I just kind of known about them through other older athletes. And I've always been one to just push myself to see how far can I go? How fast can I go? And I think a lot of this just happened at such a young age. I don't really remember too much of it.

VINCE LARA: OK. Well, you spoke about Tatyana. And you spoke about giving back. So, at this point given your experience in the marathons that you've had and the 2016 games, do you feel yourself as a mentor to some of your younger teammates? Because some of them are as young as 19, let's say Alexa Halko. So what kind of role do you see yourself in now, while you're competing, but also as one of the more experienced members?

DANIEL ROMANCHUK: I mean I think I've been very--

VINCE LARA: Fortunate?

DANIEL ROMANCHUK: Yeah, to have older athletes and mentors that have helped me get to where I am. And so I certainly want to help any athlete and help them just reach their potential.

VINCE LARA: Mm-hmm. Now, you've competed in several world majors of the marathon circuit. And does that training help you with the Paralympic Games, or do you consider them really kind of separate?

DANIEL ROMANCHUK: As far as the marathon at the games, that certainly does help. You'll see a lot of the same racers. Courses of course vary, but I would say it does help with the marathon.

VINCE LARA: You're also now training for Dubai. Is that a springboard also for 2020?

DANIEL ROMANCHUK: Yep, the last world championships just leading into the games. And so that does have a lot of things to do with the games. Slots can be earned for the country at the World Championships. I believe if you end up in a medal spot, you earn a spot. So it certainly is a big event going into the 2020.

VINCE LARA: Mm-hmm. So now you've talked about potentially enrolling at Illinois, maybe 2020, 2021. What do you think comes after sport for you?

DANIEL ROMANCHUK: Certainly like to stay in the sport to whatever degree, as long as I can. One thing I've learned in racing and just otherwise is I don't know what God has planned for me. And so I try not to make a plan too much and to hold too tightly to it. Because I can make a plan for a marathon, and chances are it's going to fall apart somewhere along the way. So I'm not sure where I'll end up, but I'd certainly like to stay in the sport.

VINCE LARA: My thanks to Daniel Romanchuk. This has been A Few Minutes With.

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