The modern Olympic Games were reintroduced in the 20th century to help an increasingly global community of nations come together in the spirit of peace and athletic competition. The games were designed to support cooperation and cultural exchange among people of different nationalities. In most cases, athletes become national heroes at home. Whether they win gold or merely represent their nation with pride and honor, the profile of these individuals rises significantly at home.
Danielle Beaubrun is one of the best swimmers from the Caribbean nation of St. Lucia. A gifted swimmer who came from a family of talented athletes, Danielle has represented her nation at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, as well as countless regional games in the Western Hemisphere.
A Natural Swimmer
Danielle, known affectionately by many in St. Lucia as Dani, was born in the capital city of Castries on 6 May 1990. As a five-year-old girl, Dani began taking swim classes with the Sea Jays Club in Castries along with her older sisters Anneliese and Christiane. All three girls were coached in the pool by their mother, Karen Beaubrun.
It didn’t take long for Dani’s natural ability in the pool to shine through. As she grew into her abilities and adapted to the physical challenges of competitive swimming, she went under her mother’s wing. For the next six years, Dani swam competitively with her mother by her side as a coach. By the time she was 11, it was time to take her abilities to the next level.
Legendary Cuban swim coach Claribel Blanco, head trainer at the swim club in Rodney Heights, trained Dani from the age of 11 to almost 14, at which point she moved on to work with Brazilian swim coach Cesar Bolzan. It wasn’t long before her talents garnered national attention in St. Lucia, and eventually, greater attention for the nation among its Caribbean neighbors.
The first major accomplishment of her career came at the Central American and Caribbean Swimming Championships in Mexico City, Mexico in 2003. At the 2003 CCAN Games, a biennial aquatics championship for countries in Central America and the Caribbean, she took home the bronze medal in the 50 meter breaststroke. Two years later at the 2005 CCAN Championships in Santo Domingo, she won the silver medal in the same race.
One year later in 2005 she was named the St. Lucia Junior Sportswoman of the Year. Her success in the CCAN Games and recognition at home led to recognition, and greater chances, abroad. In 2006, her life took a drastic turn.
2006 and Dani’s Olympic Debut
By 2006, Dani’s life was becoming very busy. She represented St. Lucia at the Commonwealth Games, finishing as the semifinalist in the 100 meter breaststroke. She also qualified for the 50, 100, and 200 meter breaststroke at the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games, finishing in 4th in the 50 meter event.
That same year, she started attending the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, United States. The school is a swimming powerhouse and is a private college preparatory day school and boarding facility. The school encompasses elementary, middle, and high school courses on four different campuses in Jacksonville, and has an enrollment of just 1,800 students each year. The American sporting magazine, Sports Illustrated, named the school one of the best athletic programs in the state of Florida.
As a student at Bolles School, she attended the 2007 Pan American Games as a representative of St. Lucia, reaching the semifinals and setting a new St. Lucian record for the 100 meter breaststroke. Her first major milestone occurred in 2008 when she swam at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. This was a special moment in her life, not just because she made her Olympic debut, but also because her mother Karen was the coach of the St. Lucia national team.
Shortly after graduating from Bolles School in 2009, she represented St. Lucia for a third time at the CCAN Championships. She won the 200 meter breaststroke (18-year-old and over), setting a new national record in St. Lucian and lowering her own previous mark in the 50 meter breaststroke as well. Following graduation, she went on to attend university at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida, along the state’s Gulf Coast.
2010 and Beyond
In 2010, Dani was chosen to serve as the flag bearer for St. Lucia at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC Games). At the Caribbean Island Swimming Championship (CISC) in Aruba in 2011, she qualified to represent St. Lucia in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England by finishing second in the 100 meter breaststroke, and set a new CISC record in the 50 meter breaststroke.
Her chance to represent her nation in the 2012 Summer Olympics was bittersweet. She had reached the pinnacle of her sport for a second time in four years, but the accomplishment was dimmed slightly by the loss of her mother. After representing St. Lucia in the Olympics, she was dealt the devastating loss of her mother Karen, who passed away on 26 December 2012 following a battle with colon cancer.
Dani still holds the national record in St. Lucia for the 50 meter, 100 meter, and 200 meter breaststroke. She continues to represent the Caribbean nation at regional and international meets as a talented swimmer.