From rehab to Rio, swimmer Dan Smith rises from the ashes

30 Jul
Dan Smith is ready to take the world by storm at next week's world championships in Russia.

Dan Smith is ready to take the world by storm at next week’s world championships in Russia.

By Suzie Ryan, Bond University Journalism Student

Dan Smith will have a helping hand from Heaven when he hits the pool at the Swimming World Championships in Russia next week.

Dan found faith after a five-year battle with drug abuse that put a temporary hold on his once-promising swimming career.

After being deemed the next Ian Thorpe as a teenager, Smith turned his back on the sport and headed down a dangerous path of crime, drugs and alcohol, leading to more than 20 visits to rehab over the five-year period.

“I threw my whole career down the tube all for a drug addiction,” Smith said.

“I was very miserable, sad, lost and broken. I was just an ungrateful kid that was always chasing that empty void in my life.

“When I did become an addict I saw what it did to my family and all the friends I lost – people at the pool and in swimming.

“It was hard for me to accept that, face reality and get help.”

After several failed attempts, the former freestyle champion was finally able to put his life back on track in early 2013 when he booked himself into a Christian rehabilitation centre in Hervey Bay.

The 24-year-old has been clean ever since and credits God with his remarkable turnaround.

“My Christianity has given me new-found hope and my whole life has started again,” Smith said.

“God has completely restored everything in my life.

“I was baptised into Elevation Church at Varsity Lakes which has given me a very good foundation of friends and people that hold me accountable to staying clean.”

When Smith showed up at Miami pool asking Denis Cotterell for another chance, the Olympic coach was cautious but said he had never given up hope on the young swimmer that he thought could be the one.

“I was always hoping he would come back,” Cotterell said.

“I was holding out for it, but thought we had just about run out of time or chances.

“I think it is the church that is really going to hold him together and keep him focused.

“He his just a changed person.”

Smith is already showing signs of the glory from his former days, representing Australia in the men’s 4×200 metre freestyle at the upcoming World Championships.

With Rio just around the corner, Smith is hoping that a good performance in Russia will prove that he has overcome his demons and set him up for the chance at an individual Olympics berth.

“My dream is to be at Rio next year but I’ve got a lot of proving to do,” Smith said.

“I want to be remembered for what I do now, not what I’ve done in the past.

“I completely believe I’ve been given another chance at life.

“I look at it as I’m born to swim and I want to fulfill my destiny. That is my destiny, to be a swimmer.”

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