Daniel Michel is an Australian Paralympic boccia player and Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist.
He was born with a disability called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which is a neuromuscular condition that leaves him with little strength and mobility throughout his body. He has used an electric wheelchair since he was 5 years old and requires assistance with almost all day-to-day tasks.
Despite his disability, he has always had an extremely keen interest in sport and, as a kid, dreamed of representing his country on the international stage. For most of his childhood, he never thought this dream could become reality. He was never able to play sport alongside his friends and was relegated to the sidelines as a perennial spectator. As a result, he became a lonely and depressed kid with very little hope and ambition for the future. The idea that he would never be able to play and pursue his biggest passion was devastating. Luckily that all changed when he stumbled across the sport of boccia at a come-and-try day when he was 15 years old. He quickly realised that this was the sport for him and the doors of possibility opened before his eyes. The love and passion he had suppressed for his whole life finally had a chance to be expressed and he dove in wholeheartedly.
At the age of 18 he made his international debut for Australia; a lifelong dream had been achieved. Over the next 3 years he went on to represent Australia at events all over the world. Ultimately, he accumulated enough ranking points to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympics as Australia’s first boccia representative in 16 years. The pride he felt representing his country on sport’s grandest stage was indescribable. The outcome was almost irrelevant, he was just so happy to be there and felt privileged to be the player to break our drought and re-announce Australian boccia on the world stage.
After Rio, he continued his development as an athlete and began consistently medalling at events. One of the highlights of his career came when he won the individual bronze and pairs silver at the 2018 World Championships and achieved a career-high world ranking of number 2. He qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and, differently to Rio, went into the Games with a genuine chance of coming home with Australia’s first medal since 1996. After progressing from the pool group and winning the quarter-final, he was beaten in the semi-final by the eventual champion and went into the winner-takes-all bronze medal match. He won in convincing fashion and became Australia’s first-ever individual medallist at a Paralympic Games, a true “pinch yourself” moment.
If he could go back and tell the miserable 15-year-old kid that all this would become his destiny, he would never in a million years have believed it. He went from being an underachieving and unmotivated teenager to a passionate and dedicated adult, and all it took was the ability to pursue his passion. Today he is passionate about conveying this message through his story and inspiring people to be brave and pursue their passions in life.