Demyanenko to represent SMCS at Paris Olympics
The journey to success for almost every student-athlete is detailed with tales of perseverance, hard work, and occasional setbacks. For Danny Demyanenko ’12, his path started at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) over a decade ago and will reach its pinnacle next summer at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Demyanenko and his Canada Senior Men’s National Volleyball Team recently qualified in come-from-behind fashion at an Olympic qualification tournament in China.
“After that last victory, we were in disbelief. It was a moment of pure joy and humility. We had achieved our dream,” says Demyanenko, who plays middle blocker. “The Olympic qualification tournament was intense, and we faced strong opponents. But we believed in ourselves and our abilities. The feeling of joy was second to none but also humbling at the same time. After such a difficult road, it was the ultimate reward for the challenges we had to overcome as individuals and as a team.”
During Demyanenko’s six years at SMCS, he thrived as a multi-sport athlete, helping the Blue Strikers volleyball programme capture CISAA league titles at every level and leading them to their first two OFSAA gold medals. He also thrived as a decorated swimmer, capturing seven OFSAA gold medals during his high school career.
“Danny was our athlete of the year in his graduating year and played on provincial indoor teams as well as national beach volleyball teams while here at the school, all while maintaining an academic standing well into the 90s in his senior years,” says Alain Arseneau, Demyanenko’s former volleyball coach and Head of the Health and Physical Education Department. “He was the most impactful volleyball player to represent the school, and his accolades, while at St. Michael’s College School and beyond, are too numerous to list. Most importantly, Danny always displayed the character traits of a true St. Michael’s ambassador both on and off the court.”
His well-rounded success both on the court and in the classroom opened the doors to multiple university opportunities.
“After debating going to university in the U.S., I settled on McMaster, which had a great reputation for academics and athletics,” says Demyanenko. “After starting my studies in kinesiology, I decided to pursue pre-law (McMaster’s Justice, Political Philosophy, and Law degree).
“My experience at McMaster was amazing. They had a great reputation for both academics and athletics, which is why I chose it. I wanted to be a part of that legacy,” he recalls. “Playing university volleyball while also pursuing my studies required some balancing, but the benefits of having a team to compete with, as well as the built-in support system, made being a student-athlete a great experience. Playing a varsity sport also allowed me to meet amazing people and build connections that I hold dear to this day.”
After university, his volleyball career took an international turn. Demyanenko turned pro and joined the Toulouse Spacers in the top French volleyball league, League ‘A’ Masculine (LAM), showcasing his skills on a competitive stage. Simultaneously, Demyanenko debuted on the national stage, representing Canada on the National B summer team, competing on the international scene.
“Turning pro and going to France immediately following university was definitely an ambitious start in one of the most competitive professional leagues, but this made me all more eager to see how I measured up,” he says. “It was a significant step in my career, exposing me to a higher level of competition and preparing me for what lay ahead.”
Currently in his seventh year of professional volleyball and his fourth season with Montpellier in France, Demyanenko’s path to playing for the national team and dream of competing at the Olympics was a long and arduous one. It began with the junior national team and continued through his university and professional years.
“Representing Canada was always my dream. The journey was tough, but it made me stronger and more determined,” he says. “After a few setbacks, my first experience with the A team was in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. As a newcomer to the group, I could feel the excitement and the intensity leading up to the games.”
For Team Canada, the road to the Paris Olympics in 2024 was challenging. With only 12 teams securing spots, the Canadian team faced tough competition. The qualifying process was two-fold, with opportunities earned through world rankings or a qualification tournament. A setback in their world ranking last year meant they had to work extra hard during the summer of 2023.
“The moment of qualifying for the Olympics was completely surreal. After losing to Belgium on the second last day, the team thought our Olympic dream had ended,” recalls Demyanenko. “However, the way the tournament played out, we still had a chance to qualify if we won our final match. Going from a moment of utter defeat to a moment where we felt as though we were on top of the world was bizarre. Many of us were in complete disbelief; we had achieved our dream.”
With the glow of an Olympic berth radiating in the background, Demyanenko reflects on the impact SMCS had built him into the person he is today.
“St. Mike’s taught me the importance of discipline and goodness. They are values I carry with me every day, both on and off the court,” he says. “It has helped me stay grounded in the face of success.”
Looking ahead to the Paris Olympics, Demyanenko plans to continue playing with Montpellier Volleyball, aiming to capture the French title. He is focused on personal growth, both mentally and physically, to be in the best possible condition for the Olympics. The journey includes participating in the Volleyball Nations League, a major competition and preparation for the grand event in Paris.
“I’m excited about the upcoming year, both with my club and the national team. The Olympics are the ultimate goal, and I want to be fully prepared,” he shares. “It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m grateful for every experience that has brought me here. I hope my story inspires others to chase their dreams and never give up.”