Boeing athlete wins two silver medals in Paralympics
BY DOUG HOLMES
To most, winning a pair of Olympic medals and being invited by the president to visit the White House would make for enough glory to last a lifetime.
But for Boeing Phantom Works' world-record athlete Bob Balk, the two silver medals he won in the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Paralympic Games represent the cake, not the icing.
"It's certainly an honor to visit the White House and to win medals," said Balk, "but winning medals can't match the reward of earning the respect of other athletes and coaches from all over the world, or the support that my friends and family have given me. That makes me a winner. I will carry the feeling that gives me always."
Balk, manager of Venture Capital Investments for Phantom Works in Seal Beach, Calif., won silver medals for the United States at the Paralympic Games in middle distance and team relay cross-country skiing. He has competed in the past five Paralympic Games and is one of the few U.S. athletes to compete in both summer and winter events. In all, he has earned six medals.
Balk became paralyzed after a fall from a roof in 1988. But he never let that stop him from becoming a world-class athlete.
Balk competes in the one-day, five-event pentathlon in the Summer Games using a racing wheelchair for the 200-meter, and 1500-meter races, and a self-designed throwing frame to compete in shot put, javelin, and discus. He currently holds national and world records in the pentathlon.
In the winter, he uses a self-designed sit ski for cross-country skiing, propelling himself only with the use of poles. He has won 22 of the past 24 National Championship ski races.
"We're all very excited and proud of Bob," said co-worker Liane McMeen, a member of the Phantom Works Technology and Planning Acquisition Team in Seattle.
Balk's boss, Miller Adams, director of Technology Planning and Acquisition in Phantom Works, said Balk's dedication to sports is reflected in the way he approaches his work at Boeing.
"His level of energy is boundless," Adams said. "His commitment makes him a great asset to our team at Boeing."
While Balk takes the competition very seriously, he says it's not just about winning.
"To me it is about the journey," Balk said, "setting goals, planning the course and working extremely hard to build the skillsin this case strength and enduranceto make it happen.
After narrowly missing the gold in Salt Lake, he told a news reporter, "I'm out here to have fun, give it my all and ski the very best I possibly can. Where I place at the end of the day is not important as long as I have left nothing on the course. I have 21 friends and family here. My mom is up in the stands bursting with pride. Any day you can make your mom that proud, you are having a good day."
For Balk, the entire year has been filled with Olympic rewards.
"On Jan. 2, I carried the Olympic torch in the Olympic torch relay in
Columbus, Ohio," he said. "The day of closing ceremonies on Mar. 16, I
was elected to the United States Olympic Committee's Athlete Advisory
Council. I'm honored to be the first Paralympic athlete elected to this
Olympic Athlete council to help develop an awareness and equality in Olympic
and Paralympic sport."
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