Saanich teen who died in crash was a ‘dream athlete’

In the sport of water polo, much of the action takes place beneath the surface, out of sight of spectators and referees alike. It has been described as a free-for-all of pushing, pulling, and holding that requires a rare combination of strength, skill and toughness.

Danny Schupbach had all those qualities and more, says Ferenc Vindisch, head coach and technical director of the Saanich Water Polo School, where Schupbach was an elite player.

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Although smaller in stature than many of his opponents, Schupbach possessed “exceptional” strength for his size, Vindisch said. “He was able to handle any athlete. Some of them were like twice as big, but he was able to handle them in the pool.”

More than that, though, Schupbach combined his unique athletic abilities with a positive attitude, work ethic and sense of humour that made him a “dream athlete” to coach, Vindisch said. “It’s just an incredibly big loss.”

Schupbach was killed on Sept. 16 at age 19 when his motorcycle and a car collided at Cumberland Road and Union Road. The 16-year-old driver of the car is a student at nearby Reynolds Secondary — the same school that Schupbach attended before graduating in 2018.

 His death has devastated his family, friends and coaches who remember a boy and a young man who always had a smile on his face.

“He was energetic, he loved people, he loved socializing, he loved making people laugh,” said Saanich Coun. Ned Taylor, who attended Reynolds Secondary with Schupbach and recalled the two of them playing together as young boys.

“He was always a positive person to have in the room and it’s just such a tragedy to have lost that bright young man at such a young age.”

Sarah Kaufman, a coach and manager at Zuma Martial Arts, watched Schupbach grow up from the time he started training with her at age six, later developing a passion for Brazilian jiu jitsu.

“He was incredible,” she said.

“I don’t think there was a day when he’d come in that he wouldn’t make some stupid face at me and I’d make a silly face back at him, and then we’d break into big smiles.”

Kaufman was always struck by Schupbach’s varied interests from mountain biking and rock climbing to music and theatre.

“He was one of those guys who always surprised you with what was next.”

She witnessed, as well, the tight bond between Schupbach and his dad, Rob, with whom he trained and wrestled.

“He’s definitely going to be missed,” Kaufman said. “I mean the Zuma community is crushed and his immediate family, of course, is where everyone needs to send their thoughts.

“You can just feel the love that everyone had for him.”

A farewell gathering for Schupbach will be held in the Sequoia Centre at McCall Gardens, 4665 Falaise Dr. on Monday at 2 p.m.

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