Most athletes train to compete against other athletes. For Hope College senior Daniel Clyde of Ann Arbor, Michigan (Huron HS), who has had collapsed lungs and a subsequent surgery, a concussion, a dislocated elbow and fractured bone, diagnosis of vasovagal syncope and narcolepsy, as well as ongoing back pains, his fiercest opponent has been his own body.
The litany of injury and surgical setbacks he has had to face are as fierce as his determination to overcome them. Despite the adversity, Clyde was still able to set three records leading up to his senior year. He currently holds the MIAA record in the 400-yard individual medley (3:57.14) and also set school records in the 200 IM (1:50.87) and 400 IM (3:57.14).
Shortly after making the decision to swim competitively for Hope while pursuing a degree in biology, Clyde sustained the fourth concussion of his young life while body surfing in Lake Michigan. While viewing his CT scan, the doctors discovered that part of his C-5 vertebrae was missing. Clyde was immediately confined to a neck brace for four weeks. On top of that, just four weeks later, he experienced his first collapsed lung; and more were to follow.. Obviously, it was not the ideal way to start his collegiate swimming career.
His sophomore year Clyde got through the season free of major injury. But then during his junior year at Hope, after his fourth collapsed lung, he went to see a surgeon in Ann Arbor who determined that he couldn’t afford any more lung failures; he scheduled surgery that week when staples were inserted to ensure his lungs would stay in place. Although the surgery went smoothly, his body sustained a severe allergic reaction to the skin prep that had been applied. The reaction took over the entire left side of his torso, front and back, causing inflammation accompanied by a fluid-filled rash preventing his body from scabbing for three weeks. Scar tissue build up also prevented him from lifting his arm, making swimming very difficult, especially since Clyde swims the individual medley, an event containing every stroke.
The summer before his senior year, Clyde made a complete recovery and came back to Hope in the best shape of his life, he says. But — you guessed it — not two weeks in, he sustained another injury, a dislocated elbow and a fractured bone caused by a playful wrestling match with one of his fellow teammates. Clyde recalls making the long trek to Coach Taber’s office “and, before opening my mouth, Coach asked, ‘How long are you out?’” he recalls. It took six weeks for Clyde to fully recover. Though he still deals with lower back pain and elbow issues,, this was the last of his injuries. He hopes…and prays. The MIAA Swimming and Diving Championships start on Wednesday and Clyde plans on defending his titles as league champ in the 200 butterfly and the 400 IM.
Although his collegiate swimming career has been wrought with frustration, his difficulties have also ignited a fire and a drive to overcome them. When asked how he has dealt with the adversity, Clyde states, “It’s given me an edge. It’s like you’re never going to feel like ‘Oh, I’m on top of the world and I can’t be beaten’ when your own body is beating you. Every time I come back, it gives me more motivation, like I have something to prove. Not to anybody else but for myself, because I’m not going to let myself get beaten by whatever goes wrong along the way.”
Coach Jake Taber agrees: “With Dan, it’s not, how do I motivate him to go out and work hard. It’s almost, how do I protect him from himself at times. Dan’s biggest opponent and critic is himself, yet even in his darkest hours, he leads the team selflessly. But, you know, I think Dan has done a nice job of recognizing when he’s had limitations.”
Even though Clyde has spent a significant amount of time out of the pool unable to train along his teammates, his role as captain and leader of the team has not diminished. Through it all, he has committed to be on deck at practices, even when he cannot swim or train, and refuses to miss a meet whether he is able to compete, or not. He explains that he’s always made it a goal of his to be more important to the team outside of the water than in the water; to keep a positive atmosphere going.
Clyde states that he is there for his team because, “I know all too well how quickly a sport can be taken from you and if I put all of my own worth into how much I’m doing athletically for myself instead of what am I doing for the rest of the team, it would be a lot harder every time I got injured.”
With the MIAA Championships this week, Clyde feels his healthiest in a long time. Since he joined the team freshman year, his biggest goal in the pool has been to qualify a relay team to nationals. That may happen. But when all is said and done at Hope outside of the pool, Clyde plans on taking a gap year following graduation with plans of pursuing a PhD in ecology or parasitology.