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St. Paul powerlifter perseveres to win gold at Special Olympics

Daniel Boyd overcame the odds to capture gold in the powerlifting competition at the national Special Olympics in Orlando.

ST PAUL, Minn. — When it comes to beating the odds, Daniel Boyd has done it many times over.

“He’s a miracle child,” Daniel's Mom, Donna Boyd said. "I believe 100% that God had His hand on Danny the whole time, from birth on."

In 1994, 8-year-old Daniel was featured in a story on KARE 11, after he beat leukemia.

“When he was diagnosed, I didn’t think he was going to see his fifth birthday,” Donna said back in 1994.

That little boy had no idea what he would face just a few years later.

“Him and I went on a canoe trip, neither one of us knew how to canoe," Donna said. "We picked the windiest day of the summer, and we ended up capsizing, and they had to rescue us.”

Daniel and his mom survived. 

After being diagnosed with an intellectual disability in his youth, Daniel got into adaptive sports in high school. Then, another setback.

“He was playing basketball and he tore his ACL and his meniscus, and ended up in the hospital having surgery for that,” Donna said.

When Daniel recovered, he found a new love: powerlifting. He started competing in the Special Olympics at 18.

“I was taking home trophies and gold medals" Daniel said. "When people said I couldn’t join the football team, I joined the weightlifting team.”

Just when he was hitting his stride, he was dealt another obstacle.

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In January of 2021, Daniel tested positive for COVID-19. He had to quarantine in the hospital alone, but that wasn’t the worst of it.

“I couldn’t move my face," he said. "My left face was numb, and then she (Donna) brought me back to the hospital again and they said I had strokes on both sides of my brain.”

Donna said she noticed a problem right away.

“He wasn’t acting right," Donna said. "He wasn’t talking. He’s very talkative and he wasn’t talking. They said he was not going to be able to participate in sports anymore. He was going to have to be on blood thinners for the rest of his life.”

True to his spirit, Daniel was out of the hospital in a day.

“I’m going to prove you wrong, because I can still walk and move my arms. I got right back in the gym as soon as I got home,” he said.

He was back to lifting in a matter of weeks.

“I had to work from square one all over again, and it kind of made me very mad that I had to start at 100 pounds when I was a 500-pound lifter,” Daniel said.

After working at it for months, he hit a benchmark in his recovery.

“We brought him in for his appointment, and I let the doctor tell him, 'You can lift whatever you want, just don’t drop it on your foot,'" Donna said while laughing.

Daniel was back, and his efforts got him selected to the Special Olympics powerlifting team, representing Team Minnesota.

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“It feels awesome, that I can come back from everything I’ve been through,” Daniel said.

Daniel competed in the national event in Orlando, Florida for the very first time.

“I feel sad that he didn’t have a chance at what they would call a normal life, but he’s made his own life, and he’s happy with it” Donna said.

Daniel took home the gold medal in squats, shattering his personal record at 413 pounds. He won silver in bench press, and silver in deadlift.

“They were like, 'Man you’re very strong. I’m like, ‘I’ve been trying to tell you guys,’” Daniel said.

His mom has had a front row seat to all of Daniel's feats, and he's made her proud.

“He’s become a man," Donna said while laughing. "I know he'll achieve anything he sets his mind to because he's been doing it for years now. Everything he goes through just makes him tougher and tougher."

Now, Daniel’s able to lift as he climbs in life, with an overwhelming passion for what he's turned into a niche.

“I told the doctor I’m going to lift until I die," he said. "It’s just going to be my sport forever.”

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