Sophomore Jan Daniec and the 15th-ranked Virginia men's swimming team heads to Christiansburg, Va., this week for the ACC Championships. The meet begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday with two relay events. A webcast of all finals sessions Thursday through Saturday will be available live on theacc.com. Daniec, who was born in Poland, recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to talk about the conference meet, his venture to the United States and quest to become a citizen and how swimming has become his universal language.
Question: What has the preparation been like leading up to the ACC Championships?
Daniec: We have been training hard all year long and have started to go down in yardage. Everybody is really excited about that.
Question: Do you feel a little more confident going into ACCs as a second year, having experienced it once before?
Daniec: My first year I didn't feel as much pressure as now, just because our fourth year class (in 2011) was so great. Frankly, I felt like a little brother to Matt McLean. Now I have realized I need to step up. Also, watching the women win it last week has given us a lot of confidence. We swim and train with them all year.
Question: How would you describe the season thus far?
Daniec: It started pretty rough. I don't know what it is - we had a great senior class that left. It has been difficult to find our team identity. But Mark (Bernardino) is really big on being tough and swimming for each other. I believe if we do those things we will be just fine.
Question: How did you end up in the United States?
Daniec: When I was 12, my parents, my sister and I moved to California from Poland. We left everything behind: my grandparents, my cousins, my friends. We moved to Orange County because we heard about the swimming program there in Mission Viejo. It's one of the best club teams in the country.
Question: How did you adjust to moving to an entirely different country where you didn't know the language?
Daniec: I knew some grammar but that didn't really cut it. I couldn't really speak with other people. It was tough the first couple of years. But it's been nice because I have been swimming. It's a good way to get to know people and you don't have to speak English to swim. Freestyle is the same in both Polish and English. Then I started to pick up the language. I'm really glad I'm here.
Question: What is your sister like?
Daniec: She doesn't swim. She plans piano. She went to the Berklee College of Music in Boston and graduated in two years. Now she is in California and records her own music - mostly jazz.
Question: How did you end up at UVa?
Daniec: I took recruiting trips to Cal and USC. I wanted to stay in California. But (former UVa swimmer) Fran Crippen was on my club team and he really encouraged me to check out UVa. I came on a trip and I just fell in love with the team and the coaches. Fran came to train at Mission Viejo after he graduated (from UVa) in 2006 and stayed until 2008. Those were my first three years of high school.
Question: And you are working on becoming a U.S. citizen as well?
Daniec: Yes. I have my interview Feb. 27, which is Monday. If I pass, I will have to take the oath. It might be the same day. I might be a citizen on Feb. 27 and if that happens I will go to (U.S.) Olympic Trials in Omaha this summer.
Question: Was there a decision to be made on whether you would try to swim for Poland or for the United States?
Daniec: I could have tried to go make the team in Poland, but the cut is 3:49 in the 400-meter freestyle and I go about 3:52. I would just rather be there in Omaha and see if my friends can make the team and cheer them on. I am really excited to see what Scot (Robison) and Matt (McLean) can do.
Question: What is your favorite event to swim?
Daniec: I like the 500 (freestyle) and the mile both but my best is probably the 500. I have been training distance freestyle since I was 12 years old so it's just a good fit. I am not really good at anything below the 500.
Question: What is the toughest thing about being a distance freestyler?
Daniec: The toughest is just swimming so much. For me, I actually love training and the feeling of accomplishing a hard set. It's the toughest and the most rewarding.
Question: Do you know what you are going to major in yet?
Daniec: I am planning to major in economics but I don't know what I want to do yet. There are a lot of things you can do with an econ major.
Question: What has been your favorite class at UVa?
Daniec: I would recommend any astronomy class at UVa. Right now I am taking my third one and it's just really interesting. There are lot of neat things to learn about the earth and the universe.
Question: What do you like to do for fun?
Daniec: Whenever we have free time we try to get together and watch movies as a team. The last one we saw was the Ides of March. I also like to play NBA 2K11 with Pete (Geissinger) even though he's not that good. We also stared a fantasy basketball league this year and that is really fun. If it's nice outside we will play Frisbee or beach volleyball. Brad (Phillips) is my roommate; we have been roommates since the start of our first year in the dorms. He came out to California last summer to train and we will probably do that again this summer. He is a cool guy.