It is truly amazing how much you can accomplish when you set your mind to something.
Take, for example, the case of Daniel Caruana Mansueto, a 22-year-old parkour and freerunning athlete who not too long ago suffered from obesity, anxiety and a low self-esteem… but managed to turn his life around and became the powerhouse of an athlete he is today.
Daniel is one of the few athletes still partaking in parkour in Malta, but he’s come a long way since his turbulent beginnings.
It all began in his childhood where, at a very young age, Daniel started to put on a lot of weight, primarily as a result of excessive eating and problems he had with asthma.
“I suffered from asthma so participating in sports or any physical activity was very difficult for me. I would just burst out coughing from running only 2 meters,” he recalls.
“I loved PE during primary school, even though I was endlessly picked on for my weight and non-athleticism. I used to try to do my best every time in each lesson, merely to prove that I was good like the other kids and to be picked for sports day… sadly, that never happened.”
As the years went by, Daniel’s weight increased… as did the bullyingAt just 13 years old, Daniel weighed 120 kilos, double the average weight for a boy his age.
Times were tough and even family members would pick on him because of his issues, something which led to him eating more junk food as a coping mechanism.
Inevitably, Daniel found himself in a downward spiral, and although he made attempts to get out of this rut (he even started to take martial arts classes), he was still struggling with his body image.
One day, while browsing YouTube, Daniel discovered the thing that would change his life forever… parkour.
Daniel became hooked on the training discipline which involves getting from one place to another in a complex environment, either by running, jumping, climbing or rolling and without assistive equipment.
“I immediately fell in love with the sport,” he says nostalgically. “My best friend Johann and I spent countless hours watching tutorials on YouTube and experimenting outside. There weren’t any coaches (there still aren’t), so we had to teach ourselves.”
Obsessed with the new street sport and determined to change his life around, Daniel decided to alter his diet and get into strength and conditioning and, eventually, began to experience some weight loss, less anxiety and even cleared his asthma.
The journey wasn’t easy though. It never was.
Practicing parkour as an overweight kid had its consequences, and Daniel suffered a lot of injuries, including tearing his ACL in his right knee. But that wasn’t going to stop him. In fact, it would motivate him even more. Doctors had explained to him that if he was to continue the sport he would have to lose his weight and so he did.
He used the time he had recovered from his injury to educate himself on nutrition, rehabilitation and strength and conditioning and even made himself a self-customised diet and fitness plan.
Eight months after the injury and he was back to the streets practicing parkour and the rest is history…
From an overweight 13-year-old boy, Daniel transformed into a shredded young man… and he’s still as determined as he was 10 years ago.
Daniel became a key member in the Maltese parkour community and even formed the group ‘Leap Squad’, a group of parkour athletes that hope to represent Malta internationally one day . He was also offered an opportunity by MCAST to spend 2 months in London working as an intern for the world-renowned company, Parkour Generations.
“The sole purpose to become a better athlete in my desired sport also helps develop better qualities which have shaped me into the man I am today.”
Still dealing with the traumas of his past, Daniel fights his anxieties day by day and hopes that his story can encourage people in the same situation to overcome their weight and mental health issues, just like he did.
“One shouldn’t have to go through what I went through but, if so, I hope that they find their purpose in life and fight for it just as I did.”
His story is an inspiration to us all and is a testimony that you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it.