Mark Ballenger enjoyed an active life as an elite skater and cyclist. He was such a fierce competitor that he was called "Mark the Shark." All that changed when he suffered a massive stroke at 43. He could have easily given up, but Mark fought back and found he still could be an athlete, competing in both able bodied and disabled cycling events.
The 2013 National Senior Games Presented by Humana will be his first at this level, and he will be competing in his hometown of Cleveland. But he doesn’t feel any special pressure. Mark’s goals have changed as much as his daily life has changed. But read on and follow his story each month through July and you will find that the fire continues to burn in the heart of a competitor.
Mark Ballenger’s stroke was life altering but ultimately brought out the best in his character. Being selected as a Personal Best athlete has also changed his life forever. As a native Clevelander, his national exposure reflected positively on his hometown and he received considerable public and media attention. Mark the Shark has been embraced by his community and he is even more inspired now to be a role model for active, healthy aging. In Mark’s words:
As I told you before, I did not expect to win any medals, but I achieved all of my goals - and more. I completed all of my events without incident and was at my peak competitively. It was special to be among so many other great cyclists my age.
I am so proud to have represented Cleveland. You told me the media might be calling and boy did they!
To be named a torchbearer for the opening ceremony and to ride the torch in front of the other athletes, local people and my family was…I can’t express the words. It was special.
Thank you for this recognition. I will never forget these experiences.
(Photo by Makenzie L. Goodman/Brooks Institute © 2013)