John Daly was painstakingly close to an Olympic skeleton medal in 2014, and when it slipped out of reach in one disastrous moment he insisted that he would never compete again. He was wrong.
Daly has unretired, making the surprise announcement on Monday that he will pursue a spot on the team that will represent the U.S. at the 2018 PyeongChang Games. He's been secretly training in Lake Placid, New York, for the last few weekends - making 18-hour round-trip drives from Washington for what amounted to eight minutes of time going headfirst down the ice - and is expected to start competing on lower-level circuits in January.
''I didn't have anything else that made me feel the way sliding did,'' Daly said. ''I have a great life. I'm not complaining. But nothing made me feel more alive than the Olympics.''
So he's back, after trying in vain to convince himself that he didn't need to compete anymore.
Daly and U.S. teammate Matt Antoine were neck-and-neck in the race for the bronze medal at the Sochi Games in 2014. On Daly's fourth and final run of the two-day competition, his sled popped out of the starting groove at the top of the track - sending him into a nasty skid from which he could not recover. He wound up finishing 15th.
He officially retired a few weeks later and left the sport, getting a job in medical device sales in Washington and not looking back until earlier this year. He returned to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency testing pool in March, so he would be eligible just in case he decided to try a comeback to the sport where athletes slide headfirst and reach speeds of 80 mph or more.
''Couldn't go out like that,'' Daly said. ''I owe this to myself and Team USA.''
Before Daly can compete on the U.S. World Cup team again, he needs to race in five events on three tracks. He expects to satisfy those requirements by competing in Park City, Utah, St. Moritz, Switzerland and Lake Placid - which in theory would give him a chance to race in the world championships in Sochi or a World Cup race on the 2018 Olympic track in Korea before this season ends.
''The Olympics are something you've got to want to do,'' Daly said. ''It's not like there's a big contract waiting for me. It's got to be the thing you want to do most. The fire inside me got put out real quick after Sochi and I went into a hole. I took off. I moved away. I did something else.''
That fire is now back.