Jack Wallace may have added a new goal to his to-do list for the upcoming year, but that doesn’t mean he is letting up on the ice at all.
The Paralympic gold medalist is excited for a new sled hockey season getting ready to begin, as well as his attempt to secure a spot on the U.S. Paracanoe Team for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
It all started as part of a casual conversation Wallace had with sled hockey teammate Brody Roybal that snowballed from there.
“It was funny, right after [the 2018 Paralympics], me and Brody were hanging out talking and we were discussing what it would be like if we started doing summer and winter,” recounted Wallace, currently a senior at The College of New Jersey, majoring in biomedical engineering. “And he was more joking around, but I internalized that, and said, ‘Well, what if I did that?’ And I started looking around at different sports, tried out a couple, and then I found kayaking, and I really liked it. You’re outside, it’s great cross-training in the summer.”
It will be a challenging task for Wallace to claim a spot on the U.S. national team for paracanoe (which has two different events, one in a canoe and one in a kayak), but based on his work ethic and all that he has accomplished in hockey, no one should bet against him.
“I’m trying to qualify for the Tokyo Games,” said Wallace, a native of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. “I went to the World Championships at the end of August, and I got into the semifinals but I didn’t get out of them. There’s another chance to qualify in May in Germany, and I’ll have to shave about four to five seconds off my time to get in confidently. It’s like a 200-meter race in kayaks, and it’s really quick, it only lasts about 40 seconds. It’s very fast, very explosive, so it’s fun.”
The 21-year-old defenseman plans to direct some of his attention towards improving in the kayak, but he’s also focused on the upcoming hockey season and is eager to resume his usual training regimen. That typically consists of shared workouts with national team star Declan Farmer, who attends nearby Princeton University, paired with monthly gatherings with the national team.
“I get to skate with Declan, depending on available ice time, at least three, sometimes four or five days a week over at Princeton. That’s about a 20-minute drive for me, so it’s not a big deal. It’s just constant training, preparing, and then every month, we usually have a [national team] training camp, which is like a Thursday through Sunday, where the whole team will fly out and we’ll all train together for a couple of days, see what we need to work on, build some chemistry, and talk to the coaches and the training staff and all that stuff. Then we’ll go home and keep grinding.”
Wallace, who first made the national sled team in 2016-17 as an 18-year-old, helping the U.S. win silver at the 2017 World Championship, has gradually grown into a key member of Team USA. It all started with him playing three seasons with the U.S. National Development Team, and Wallace considers that experience vital to his evolution as a player.
“It’s honestly the only reason I developed into the player that I am,” said Wallace, who also scored five points (two goals, three assists) in five games while helping Team USA win the gold medal at the 2018 Paralympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. “Before I made the development team, I didn’t know that many people in the community, I didn’t know how competitive it really was. I was kind of a no-name kid that played club every once in a while having fun, and that kind of set it off, like, ‘We can go the distance here, they see some potential in me.’
“They taught me how to train properly, they taught me what to do on the ice, off the ice, how to act like a professional. They helped me out a lot. They’ve just done such a good job with our program.”
He emphasized that his foray into kayaking will not impinge on his hockey career one bit.
“I’m still part of the national team for hockey and I’m definitely still committed to that,” Wallace said. “My only stipulation for picking up a summer sport was that it wouldn’t take anything away from hockey, so I think kayak’s the best route for that, because it’s similar muscle groups, it has kind of off-set training seasons, and stuff like that.
“Come springtime, when it warms up again, I’ll definitely throw a lot more eggs in that basket, but for right now, I’m ready to get back into hockey season. I kind of spent all summer in the boat and now I’m back on the ice.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.