Daniel Deihl: The next Michael Phelps?


Jon Reiter

Daniel Deihl swims backstroke at the Junior Pan-Pacific Swimming Championship.

by Gabe Erb, Author

Daniel Deihl is a 17-year-old swimmer from Cumberland, Md. who already holds national age-group records in the 100 meter backstroke.

Deihl broke the 15-16 record and 17-18 record a little more than a month after entering that age group.

He is a junior in high school and the number one ranked swimmer for the class of 2024. Deihl swims for the Cumberland YMCA in Western Maryland. 

“It’s really cool to be breaking age-group records. Now, I just need to get to that next level,” said Deihl.

For most people, swimming is a hard skill to learn, and it takes a while to get good and compete at a high level. This  was not true for Daniel.

“My mom just signed me up for summer swim one year, and after realizing I could be good, I transitioned to year-round swimming,” said Deihl.

However, swimming for the entire year is tough. Practices are held nearly everyday, and it can be hard to balance life, school and swim.

Deihl swims six days a week, including after school, for two or more hours. His only day off is Sunday.

“It can be hard sometimes, but I know it’s what I want to do, so I can just push through it,” said Deihl.

Cumberland is a small city in Western Maryland, and Deihl wants to be the reason to put it on the map.

“I think we’ve had one NFL player or something from here. It’d be really cool to make the Olympics and leave my mark here [in Cumberland],” said Deihl.

Most big name swimmers come from large swim clubs. Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, both Maryland natives and swimming greats, come from North Baltimore Aquatic Club and Nation’s Capital Swim Club.

This may be true for other swimmers, but Deihl differs from these Olympians. His team swims for the local YMCA.

“It’s a small team at the Y with a lot of younger kids, but only four or five over 14. I’m the oldest there,” said Deihl. 

With a team that small, it can be hard to have much competition. But, it can help [build] the relationship between swimmer and coach and help a coach focus on a specific swimmer. This is what coach Brian Dowling does with Deihl.

Daniel is looking to go to the Paris Olympics in 2024, but will be up against some fierce competition in the Olympic trials such as Ryan Murphy and Hunter Armstrong, the top backstrokers in the country.

To earn a spot on the Olympic team, a swimmer must rank among the top two in an event in the country. 

“It’s going to be really tough, but I have a lot of room to improve, and I’m the youngest out of all of them. I think I can do it,” said Deihl.

It can be hard to stay motivated doing such a competitive sport. It can be easy to burn out and plateau, especially for someone who is already better than ninety-nine percent of other swimmers. 

“It’s [swimming is] what I’m really good at. If I can focus on this one thing, I know I can be one of the best,” said Deihl.

If I can focus on this one thing, I know I can be one of the best,

— Daniel Deihl

While being the number 1 recruit in the nation, Daniel still has not made a commitment to any college. 

As for his specific considerations, Deihl mentioned looking at NC State, one of the top swim schools in the nation. 

“Only me and one other guy from the top 20 recruits haven’t committed yet. I’m just looking for somewhere that can really take me to the next level,” said Deihl.