Personal best: Series of surgeries can’t keep Walsh off the slopes 

It’s been a year since John Walsh received a new liver, his “gift of life.” A diagnosis of liver cancer required the transplant, one of four abdominal surgeries that Walsh has survived over the past 18 months.

On March 27, just five weeks after the last surgery, an emergency appendectomy, Walsh was battling the slopes of Squaw Valley, skiing in the NorCal Championships. The past president and former race director of the San Francisco Ski Club finished out of the money in the giant slalom, but he reached the podium with a third-place finish in the intermediate veterans slalom event.

“It honestly felt good,” said Walsh, smiling behind his handlebar mustache. “It gives me the thought of coming back, but I’m not fully back. I have more races coming up.”

The 61-year-old Brooklyn native has been a skier since moving to the Bay Area in 1975. A 10-year member of the S.F. Ski Club, Walsh has been racing for the past four years. He is the two-time and reigning champion of the Far West National Races in Keystone, Colorado.

Recently retired after 20 years as a carpenter supervisor at the U.C. Medical Center in San Francisco, Walsh’s active life since the transplant includes senior league softball in San Francisco and Redwood City. He fully anticipates returning to abalone diving this summer.

Walsh and his diving partner, Russ Alexia, served together in Vietnam.

“We were in some crazy situations, but we always felt like we’d survive,” Walsh said. “I was definitely more scared in the hospital than in Vietnam. I didn’t know if I’d survive.”

His friends on the S.F. Ski Club played a significant role in Walsh’s recovery. The hospital visits and the support that he received were invaluable, but it was the signed, framed poster of Lindsey Kildrow (now Lindsey Vonn) that he really covets. One of his fondest memories is skiing behind Vonn and fellow Olympic hero Julia Mancuso on a recent Fourth of July at Mammoth Mountain.

Walsh has no plans to ease his ski schedule. In fact, he has agreed to a second term as the S.F. Ski Club’s race director next year.

Having conquered his grave health challenges over the past year, he is determined to improve his performance on the mountain.

“It’s you against the clock. I don’t consider people I race against as my adversaries,” Walsh said. “It’s you against the clock.”



Owning the slopes

S.F. Ski Club: Founded in 1967, a ski, snowboard and social organization for adults over 21.

HE SAID IT: “I don’t consider the transplant a miracle. I consider it a gift of life. I consider the technology that got me thetransplant the miracle,” — John Walsh


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