Aged 14, Smith won eight national titles in the single greatest gold medal haul since Ian Thorpe.
He was touted as the next Thorpedo and, in Miami coach Denis Cotterell’s eyes, the best trainer he’d encountered since Grant Hackett.
But if Ian Thorpe can’t cope with being Ian Thorpe, how can a 14-year-old boy?
Smith thought fame and fortune would fall in his lap and behaved like he was a rock star when in fact he’d proven nothing at all.
It was in rehab, during those hellish withdrawals from his daily drug and alcohol binges, that he thought it wasn’t too late to fulfil his destiny.
“I look at it as I’m born to swim and I want to fulfil my destiny. That is my destiny, to be a swimmer,” he said.
“I’d trained myself to take drugs for five years. The hardest thing was that was gone. I had to get clean. Coming off it was like living in hell, but I had to do it.”
Here is a story from 2006
Let’s not put too much pressure on Daniel Smith. Let’s not create impossible expectations. He’s only 14. He won eight gold medals at the Australian age championships, the biggest haul since Ian Thorpe was a young ‘un, but we wouldn’t sleep at night if we labelled him the next Ian Thorpe.
So we’ll call him the next Grant Hackett. Same difference.