Disabled Skiing Pioneer Jack Benedick Dies Of Heart Attack
Jack Benedick, 70, died Wednesday in Denver, Colo. after suffering a heart attack. Benedick, a former disabled ski racer and tireless advocate for adaptive skiing, inspired countless U.S. disabled athletes to Paralympic and World Championship medals.
“Great leaders make it possible for athletes to achieve their Olympic dreams,” said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Bill Marolt. “As a pioneer of adaptive skiing, Jack Benedick made a difference for generations of athletes. All of us in the skiing family will miss his friendship and passionate pursuit of goals on behalf of adaptive athletes.”
Charlie Huebner, USOC Chief of Paralympics, noted, “His (Jack’s) motto was ‘fourth is not good enough’ aligns with our Paraylmpic vision of competitive excellence and push for podium finishes… He will be greatly missed.”
Benedick lost both of his legs in Vietnam and, ironically, that was the impetus for his ski career, The evolution of the U.S. Adaptive Ski Team, the prominence of U.S. athletes over two decades, and the growth of skiing within the Paralympic, can virtually all be traced back to Benedick. He returned to Vietnam to serve as a major even after losing his legs. Skiing became his life after returning home.
He was also a competitor. He was named to the new Adaptive Ski Team in 1979 and competed through winning a silver medal in combined at the 1984 Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria, signaling a “coming out” for a powerhouse U.S. team.
He was a leader in the National Handicapped Sports program (now Disabled Sports USA) and fought for disabled athletes to be able to compete at the highest levels of the sport. He was put in charge of the program that later became a model for all other Paralympic sports.
The International Paralympic Committee gave him its highest honor – the Paralympic order – and he was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2010.
A memorial celebration is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, April 21, 2013 at the Applewood Golf Course in Golden, Colo. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Jack’s memory to the Jack Benedick Memorial Fund. Checks may be sent to the fund c/o Park City Foundation, P.O. Box 681449, Park City, Utah 84098. Credit cards may be used by calling (435) 214-7475.
What It Means: Losing Jack Benedict is personal for this writer, having worked with him often to tell the story of the early success years of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team and, in particular, with the late Diana Golden. One of the classic stories, often repeated, occurred when Benedict, as a competitor, took a yard sale spill toward the end of a slalom course, resulting in both of his prosthetic legs, still in their boots, crossing the finish line and winning the race. That resulted in the “Benedick Rule,” requiring the entire body and equipment to cross the finish line at the same time to be declared the winner. Benedick was one of a kind.