Balboa leads by example


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In his first season as a Hawkeye gymnast, Javier Balboa has made a big impression on the coaching staff.

The junior from Monterrey, Mexico, has become a leader in the gym in his short time in Iowa City.
"He brings in a level of maturity that you wouldn't see as a freshman," head coach JD Reive said. "He's been able to adapt a lot faster."

Balboa, who competes in all six gymnastics events, said his transition from Monterrey to Iowa City has been challenging but rewarding.

"It's been kind of difficult, but I have really enjoyed it," he said. "I'm happy I came to Iowa."

"He has made an exceptional transition," Reive said. "He is one of the top students on the team, and he really seems to like Iowa City."

Everything except the frigid Iowa City weather has drawn in Balboa, who said winter will definitely take some getting used to.

He chose Iowa after the Hawkeyes saw him perform at the Blackjack Invitational in Las Vegas and offered him a scholarship. Balboa — who placed second in the all-around in the 2010 Mexican National Championship and placed first in vault and parallel bars — signed a letter of intent in June.

Becoming a Hawkeye, he said, "was my only option. It was either come to Iowa or stay in Mexico."

Because this is his first year of NCAA competition, he has three years of eligibility remaining at Iowa.

Apart from his ability to perform and excel in the gym, he has stood out as a great tool for his teammates. He assists fellow Hawkeyes by watching them perform and helping them when he sees something they can improve upon.

"He leads by example. It's like having another coach in the gym," assistant coach Brad Virkler said. "He gives very easily applied corrections. That's something you don't always see. It's a great quality to have."

Balboa attributes his ability to assist his teammates to the amount of experience he's had.

"It comes with doing a lot of gymnastics," he said. "I really like gymnastics, and I watch a lot of it, and if I see something wrong, I'm going to tell my teammates to help them improve."

Reive was impressed with Balboa's leadership abilities, especially the way he encourages his teammates during competition.

"He's a kid who is going to hit a set, get down, and say 'All right, you're next. Let's go,' " Reive said. "It brings a level of comfort for the team."

The coach expects Balboa to compete in the Big Ten and NCAA finals in the all-around, as well as achieve All-American status. While the parallel bar and high-bar events are strong points for him, Reive said, he believes Balboa can give the Hawkeyes good performances in all six events.

For Balboa, his goal is simple.

"I just want to do the best I can so the team can improve. It's the start of a new process with Coach JD," he said. "It's barely started, and I am looking forward to what's ahead."

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