World-class water sports athlete Bob Wink has a continuously growing passion for rowing and water skiing that began in his own backyard on Victoria Point in Orillia.
Wink started water skiing when he was five and played other sports such as hockey during his youth. But his true passion is on the water.
“My dad was a water skier and he was a part of the Victoria Point Ski Club. I was always involved, but I wasn’t allowed to ski with them until I was 17,” said Wink, who is now a member of the club that has been in existence since 1976.
“My love for water sports comes from being so fortunate to live on the water. I think about other people who have to commute or travel to another site to ski and I know it just wouldn’t have happened for me,” said Wink, 49.
Wink has had much success competing at the provincial, national and international levels.
In the past year, Wink won gold for slalom at the provincial and national water ski championships. Last month in Peru, he placed third in slalom at the 35+ senior Pan Am Waterski Championships and also earned a silver in the overall team event.
Training on Lake Simcoe has contributed to his success, he says. A lot of Wink’s competitors train on private lakes that have perfect conditions, but on Lake Simcoe, there is always water movement.
“It can be an advantage I think because you become more of a consistent skier and way more balanced, and when the conditions get tough, I always seem to out-perform the other guys,” Wink explains.
Wink also continues to row competitively at a high level. Unlike water skiing, Wink didn’t become interested in the sport until he graduated from Twin Lakes Secondary School.
Wink had headed off to the University of Western Ontario to study economics and administrative commercial studies. He had recently been diagnosed with diabetes and was looking for a way to keep active.
Wink was watching the 1992 Summer Olympics when rowing captured his attention.
“I thought, ‘Wow this is a great sport.’ and I really missed the water where I grew up back home in Orillia on the lakes and I thought to myself, I can do that sport,” Wink said of rowing.
Wink trained that whole summer with the goal of making the varsity rowing team at Western. He was successful, making the team as a walk-on.
In 1994, Wink was on the Canadian Development Team and tried out for a spot on the national team. At that time, Canada announced they were focusing on sending a coxed four-man team to the Olympic Games in 1996, and they stopped fielding an eight-man team for the world championships in 1994 and 1995.
That year, Wink placed seventh, narrowly missing an opportunity to represent Canada at the highest levels.
“That was a turning point for me and rowing for a bit,” Wink said.
It also forced him to re-think the rest of his life.
“I was destined to be in downtown Toronto and work in banking, and realized I wasn’t going to be happy there, so I made the decision to come back to my hometown,” Wink said.
Wink returned to the Sunshine City and started up his own business, Windmill Garden Centre and Landscaping in 1995, which is still flourishing today.
Wink walked away from rowing for almost 10 years and didn’t return to the sport until the Orillia Rowing Club started up about 17 years ago.
Since then, Wink has had great success provincially and nationally and at the world championships as well.
Wink won two world masters championships in 2010 and also won the doubles title with his rowing partner Brad Ingleton. Last September, Wink won three gold medals at the national championships.
As the owner and operator of a successful and growing local business and a world-class athlete, Wink said he couldn’t have achieved the success he has earned alone.
“I have a very supportive family thank goodness, and I have a great staff at work. Without all these elements, none of this would have happened,” Wink said with a smile.
The nominee for the 2018 Orillia Athlete of the Year Award doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon, as his busy lifestyle keeps him happy and healthy.
“The reason why I am so active is to control my diabetes, that is the No. 1 thing. And if I don’t stay active, I don’t feel as well,” Wink explained.
“I certainly wouldn’t be as happy either. It’s a real pleasure to go out and be on the water and be able to sometimes stop and reflect.”
As winter sets in, he is already looking forward to getting back out on the water next spring.