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Air Force WCAP athlete sets sights on Paris Olympics

  • Published
  • By Emily Peacock

For many young men and women considering an enlistment into the armed services, one common source of apprehension or anxiety stems from a branch’s fitness standards. 

From pull-ups, to push-ups, and even a few laps around a track, fitness in the military is not a foreign concept, but rather a way of life.

For one Olympic hopeful, however, a few laps around the track is where U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Daniel Michalski thrives.

A member of the Air Force’s World Class Athlete Program, Michalski competes nationally and abroad in the 3,000-meter steeplechase; a track and field event consisting of 7.5 laps and 35 barrier hurdles, seven of which include a 12ft-by-12ft water pit.

Having run competitively at both Cedarville University and Indiana University in college, as well as semiprofessionally for Nike, Michalski was looking for ways to continue training while fulfilling a life-long dream of service.  

“I had heard about the Air Force WCAP and reached out to the program coordinator to learn about their fitness requirements and the enlistment process,” Michalski said. “Before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to my wife and two kids in Colorado Springs and heading off to Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.”

While the combination of fitness tests, personal training and group workouts help future Guardians and Airmen improve their fitness abilities, Michalski left Lackland disappointed in the lack of laps around the track. 

“I’m used to averaging 70 miles per week,” Michalski said. “I think we only ran three times throughout the entire eight weeks I was there.” 

After graduating in March 2023, Michalski returned to Colorado Springs where he would work alongside coaches, physical therapists, dieticians, and other WCAP athletes to train and compete at home and abroad in order to earn points towards his national and world rankings.

The ultimate goal: qualifying for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France.

“I think it would mean so much to me, my family, my coaches – everyone that’s sacrificed for and supported my journey,” Michalski said. 

When asked where he found his greatest inspiration, Michalski reflected on the influence of his grandfather, Joseph Michalski.

“My PopPop had it rough,” said Michalski. “He was physically handicapped, lived through World War II and the Great Depression – but those things never defined him. He was such a kind, insightful and spiritual man.”  

A favorite moment of Michalski’s came from a visit after his completion of basic training and the birth of his son. 

“He [Joseph Michalski] briefly congratulated me on my enlistment but was far more excited about meeting my son,” said Michalski. “Joseph Edward Michalski. Named after my PopPop.”

A few months after meeting his great grandson, Joseph passed away at the age of 95.

While he won’t be there to cheer him on from the stands, Michalski knows his grandfather would be proud of the work he’s put into becoming the man he is today. 

With less than a year to go before the Olympic opening ceremony, Michalski is headed to Santiago, Chile, to represent the USA at the Pan American Games.

“This will be a great opportunity for Michalski to compete on a global stage and potentially qualify for the Olympic trials,” said Dale Filsell, WCAP program coordinator. “We know what he’s capable of and we’re excited to see him represent both the Air Force and the U.S. in Chile.”  

Michalski will compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Pan American Games Nov. 4, 2023, and hopes to qualify for the Olympic trials in June 2024.

To learn more about the Air Force WCAP, visit