Valentine "Val" Bialas
Olympic Speedskating Champion
Speedskater Val Bialas of Utica was known as much for his indomitable spirit as he was for his athletic accomplishments.
He came back from severe burns that hospitalized him for three months to become a three-time Olympian. He overcame the loss of his right leg to remain active in athletics and the Utica Community.
Bialas was 20 when he competed in his first Olympic Games in 1924. He was hospitalized for three months for burns the following summer, but returned to captain the 1928 Olympic team and make the 1932 team.
He was a contender for the 1936 Games before losing his right leg in a car-train accident.
In the 1924 Games in France, Bialas was sixth in the 5,000 meters and eighth in the 10,000. He captained the 1928 team at St. Moritz, Switzerland, and was sixth in both the 1,500 and the 5,000. He placed fifth in the 10,000 meters at Lake Placid in 1932.
He was being considered as an alternate for the 1936 team when the car he was driving back from the Olympic trials in Minneapolis collided with a train near Michigan City, Ind. Bialas slipped on ice as he jumped from the car and his right leg was severed by a train wheel.
Bialas, named to the National Speed Skating Hall of Fame in 1963, won the international championship in 1926 and in 1929 set a world two-mile record of 5:35. He won 115 medals.
Bialas also excelled in tennis, winning the Utica public courts title four times from 1930 through 1934 and teaming with Jules Daniels to win the indoor doubles title from 1947 through 1950.
Bialas was 3 when his family moved from Boston to Utica in 1906. He started skating at 10 at Watson Williams rink and was in his first national meet in 1921.
Bialas was Utica commissioner of parks and recreation when he died at 61 in 1965.