PARK CITY, UT – After a long career on the U.S. Adaptive Cross Country Ski Team, Paralympic medalist and World Champion Bob Balk (Long Beach, CA) decided to retire and shift his focus to his two-year-old triplets.
Joining the team in 1992, Balk was an able-bodied rugby player until he broke his back when he fell off a roof at a college party in 1988. He then began his disabled athletic career in basketball and started skiing. He finished his career having competed in seven Paralympics, including three summer Games as a pentathlete. His long-time commitment to the Team was revealed in his helpful leadership for younger teammates.
U.S. Adaptive Cross Country coach Jon Kreamelmeyer appreciated the leadership Balk provided for up-and-coming athletes.
"I think his leadership and guidance to new team members and development athletes, primarily sit skiers, was very valuable," said Kreamelmeyer. "That longevity made him a very important member of the team."
This leadership played out through his performance on the snow as well. An example for his teammates, Balk had several outstanding competitions, in particular the relay in the 2002 Paralympics.
"The fondest memory I have of Bob was in the Paralympics in 2002. He was the first leg on the relay team which consisted of Bob, Willy Stewart and Steve Cook. The conditions were horrendous; it was snowing heavily. Bob was the anchor. He skied with total heart and determination and when he came in to tag Willy, we had the lead. It was such a huge team effort. Bob just went out and set the tone on the first leg and really stimulated the possibilities that existed," said Kreamelmeyer.
Finishing a long and successful sixteen year career on the U.S. Adaptive Cross Country Team, Balk's influential position and guidance on the team will certainly be remembered.