Good Life

Penn State grad dives head-first into skeleton

Daniel Barefoot has the ultimate goal of joining the U.S. skeleton team in Beijing for the 2020 Olympics.
Daniel Barefoot has the ultimate goal of joining the U.S. skeleton team in Beijing for the 2020 Olympics. Photo provided

Like all of the best secret origin stories, Daniel Barefoot’s is almost a little too convoluted for words.

Barefoot was three months into a career as a mild-mannered landscape architecture designer at Advanced GeoServices Corp., an environmental and geotechnical engineering company with offices throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

His was located in West Chester, where Barefoot had built a shrine to post-collegiate independence.

The young man had left Penn State with a job and almost zero lag-time at Mom and Dad’s house in between, achieving what is now being loosely referred to in more adult circles as “a life.”

I felt like I could do something more, I felt like I could use my time for more than I was doing.

Daniel Barefoot

He felt good. Really good. Maybe a little bored.

“I felt like I could do something more, I felt like I could use my time for more than I was doing,” Barefoot said.

That’s when he concocted an idea so radical, so crazy that it was a full year before he breathed a word about it to another living soul.

Barefoot started training for the U.S. Olympic Skeleton Development Team, a notion that would seem to belong square in the center of a midlife crisis, were it not for a fact that the guy is in his mid-20s and came in 13th place at this year’s national championship.

If you’re drawing a massive blank right now, don’t worry. Barefoot was only vaguely familiar with skeleton himself before he decided to give the sport a go.

For the uninitiated, skeleton racing involves racing head first down a steep and treacherous ice track on a tiny sled. That description comes verbatim from olympic.org and may shed some light on why Barefoot gave himself a nearly 365-day buffer before telling his family about his new extracurricular activity.

He did finally come clean — although his sales pitch might have benefited from a little more time in the oven.

“I’m taking on this new thing, it’s going to take all my time, all my money,” Barefoot said.

The revelation, he said, was greeted with a minimal amount fuss. After all, this was a kid who collected hobbies like most hobbyists collect stamps.

I feel like I have more interests and hobbies than anyone that I know.

Daniel Barefoot

Drawing, whittling, sculpting — activities most people wait to take up until after they get the whole “career” thing out of the way.

Barefoot is working on that last part too, presently as a landscape architect at AECOM.

“I feel like I have more interests and hobbies than anyone that I know,” Barefoot said.

Skeleton is rapidly becoming more than just a hobby. Barefoot’s ultimate goal is to join the U.S. team in Beijing for the 2020 Olympics, something he’s trying to balance with his commitments to work, friends and family.

Most seem to understand the unique opportunity he’s created.

“People are like, ‘for sure you need to prioritize this,’ ” Barefoot said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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