Mike Ballard hopes to clock a personal best time at the ICF Paracanoe World Cup in Poland this week, despite a testing build up to the event.
The Abu Dhabi-based kayaker will be competing for the United States in the K2 Men’s 200m event in Poznan on Thursday.
A busy summer schedule will also see him competing at the World Championships and then the Pan-American Games in Nova Scotia in consecutive weeks in August.
His preparations for the campaign were delayed by a potentially life-threatening condition at the end of last year, when he suffered a pressure sore.
After recovering from that, he has been pleased by the level of fitness he has attained ahead of the event – only to arrive at the course for the first time this weekend to find his boat absent.
The manufacturers had sent a variety of kayaks on an overnight delivery from neighbouring Czech Republic, but Ballard’s was not part of the shipment.
The former Abu Dhabi Harlequins rugby player remains sanguine about his situation, though.
“We need a boat – we are not going to swim the 200m,” Ballard said.
“There are plenty of boats in this town, we will find something. I can rent a boat, even if it is one with not a cool paint job, and maybe scratched up.”
Despite being the lone para-athlete from United States, he does at least have some assistance.
Two weeks prior to departure, Ballard contacted his alma mater, Adrian College in Michigan, to see if any students could make the trip to Poland to assist him.
Instead, a professor in exercise science has travelled, and Ballard is glad for his expertise.
“It is Adrian College Bulldogs [the university’s American football team] and so we’ve renamed the lake ‘Bulldog Bay’,” Ballard said. “It has been a very good solution.”
Ballard is unsure which of the leading kayakers in his field have travelled to Poznan, but he says his focus is on improving his own performance rather than his finishing position.
“In terms of a finishing place, there are no expectations, but in terms of time, I have a number,” Ballard said.
“I was 58 seconds the first time in the boat in the Paralympic qualifiers. A year later, with better technique a month ago it was 57 seconds.
“Now 54 seconds is my target. That is where I need to be. It is not about who else is out there.”