Lori Strong was born on September 12, 1972 and made the Canadian National Gymnastics team for the first time in 1985, after winning the Canadian Junior National Championships. In doing so she became a carded athlete at the young age of 14. During the next 7 years, Lori competed in more international competitions than many gymnasts. According to Gymnastics Canada Gymnastique, she competed in 21 international invitationals alone.
In 1987, Lori competed in her first World Championships. She placed 15th AA - the highest placement for a Westerner! It was during these World Championships that Lori submitted a unique move on the uneven bars. The skill was accepted by the F.I.G. (International Gymnastics Federation) and officially became known as the "Strong." Later that same year, Lori was recognized with the Elaine Tanner Award. This award recognizes Canada's top female athlete under age 20.
Over the next several years, Lori competed in a Commonwealth Games (where she captured four gold medals), three World Championships, and two Olympic Games. She also developed a second skill that was named after her. This skill, a move on the balance beam, was officially recognized as the "Lori hop." The 1988 Seoul Olympics was Lori's first Olympic experience. Given her successful performance one year earlier in Rotterdam, and given that she was Canada's National Champion leading into the Games, she was considered Canada's best chance in the women's AA. Unfortunately, while performing a 2 1/2 twist punch front (long before the move became popular), she fell and fractured (broke) her leg. Lori's competitive spirit broke through however, and instead of stopping mid-way through her routine she pushed on to the finish. Unfortunately, doctors would not allow Lori to finish the entire competition. She withdrew after three events and finished 36th AA.
By 1992, Lori was nearing the end of her international elite career. Make no mistake though, Lori was certainly not losing steam. That year she was a uneven bars semi-finalist at the 1992 World Championships and member of Canada's Olympic team in Barcelona. While a small mistake prevented her from qualifying to the AA, her skills were world class nevertheless. Indeed, Gymnastics Canada Gymnastique later saluted Lori at their Annual Awards Banquet. Recognition is given to athletes who make a significant contribution to gymnastics over a period of years. A gymnast who accumulates 30 or more points during their international competitive years qualifies for Gold recognition. Points are based on a number of factors including participation in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Pan American Games, World Championships, and Canadian Championships. In 1997, Lori received Gold level recognition.
Upon retirement from elite competition, Lori accepted a scholarship from the University of Georgia and competed NCAA. She had an impressive career there as well, becoming a seven time All-American. She completed her Senior season as the SEC All Around Champion and as a member of the National Championship team.
Upon graduating in 1996 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, Lori did an internship at the 1996 Olympics in baseball broadcasting. She followed this with another internship at the sports department of an ABC affiliate in Atlanta. Throughout this time Lori also coached club gymnastics.
In 1998 she returned to the Georgia Gym Dogs, this time as a volunteer assistant coach. This enabled Lori to spend more time with her then-boyfriend, Steve Ballard. Georgia Gym Dogs may recall that Steve is the brother of former Gym Dogs gymnast Julie Ballard Clark. At the time, Steve was the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Georgia Gym Dogs.
In November of that same year, while on a trip to New Orleans, Steve proposed to Lori. She and Steve married on August 9, 1999. For photos from the wedding, please visit the Gym Dog Alumni News Page. Following the wedding, the couple decided to leave Georgia and become business partner with Steve's brother and his wife. Lori and Steve now reside in Raleigh, North Caroline and operate Smoothie King. The store specializes in nutritious fruit smoothies, sport supplements, vitamins and minerals, and the like. Lori also continues to coach club gymnastics (currently at Raleigh's Gym Carolina Gymnastics Academy).
Lori also provides colour commentary for Fox Sport Net's coverage of NCAA gymnastics. Starting with the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Lori replaced Carol Angela Orchard as CBC colour commentator for gymnastics and trampoline.
Lori and Steve have one child, daughter Sierra Loren. She was born August 15, 2002.