Adaptive skiing pioneer Jack Benedick was the driving force behind the formation and best in the world success of the U.S. Adaptive Ski Team.
DENVER (March 21) – One of Paralympic skiing’s greatest pioneers, Jack Benedick, passed away unexpectedly Tuesday (March 19) at his home in Denver. A relentless advocate for adaptive skiing over four decades, his efforts resulted in U.S. athletes achieving hundreds of Paralympic and World Championship medals and the elevation of his sport to the highest level globally.
“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.”
"He was an iconic figure and was a significant leader in the Paralympic Movement who demanded and delivered excellence,” said USOC Chief of Paralympics Charlie Huebner. “Our past Paralympic skiing achievements can be attributed to Jack's leadership and indomitable spirit. His motto "Fourth is not good enough" aligns with our Paralympic vision of competitive excellence and push for podium finishes. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this most difficult time. He will be greatly missed."
Jack Benedick's lifelong career in skiing started by accident – a means of rehabilitation after losing both legs in Vietnam. But his passion, innovation and drive left a lasting impact on adaptive skiing. The evolution of the U.S. Adaptive Ski Team, the prominence of U.S. athletes over two decades and the growth of adaptive skiing within the Paralympics can all be tracked back to Benedick, the sport's most prolific pioneer.
Benedick lost both legs in Vietnam in 1969. But while rehabbing at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center in Denver, he was introduced to skiing. Despite losing his legs, he returned to Vietnam to serve as a major – the only double amputee on active military duty. When he returned home, skiing became his life.
Adaptive skiing was in its infancy. Not only did Benedick learn the sport, but he learned to compete. He was named to the fledgling U.S. Adaptive Ski Team in 1979, continuing through a career that would be highlighted with a silver medal in combined at the 1984 Paralympics in Innsbruck – a coming-out party for the rising powerhouse U.S. athletes. In his first Paralympics in 1980 he scored three top-fives, making it four in 1984, including the silver.
While Benedick's silver medal was a breakthrough, his real contribution was what he did for adaptive athletes. After retiring as an athlete, Benedick wanted to elevate the position of his sport. As the leader of National Handicapped Sports Association (now Disabled Sports USA) he began to push programs for adaptive athletes nationally. He also wanted elite athletes to compete at the very highest level – similar to the U.S. Ski Team. He took his case to the U.S. Ski Association, and was put in charge of a program that would become a model for all other Paralympic sports.
In the late '80s, Benedick, working with USSA President Howard Peterson, established the modern day U.S. Adaptive Ski Team under the logo and banner of the U.S. Ski Team. Adaptive athletes now had even more inspiration, and it showed. At the 1992 Paralympics in France, the USA dominated. That dominance would continue for years to come as U.S. adaptive athletes raised the bar on the world.
In the '90s, Benedick drove his message international with the 1994 acceptance of adaptive skiing by the International Ski Federation and later stepped up his role with the International Paralympic Committee. In 2006, the IPC recognized him with presentation of the Paralympic Order. In 2010, he was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
As a soldier, skier, athlete, pioneer and leader, Jack Benedick made a difference. As a Paralympic medalist he showed his athletic ability. And his nearly three decades of fighting on behalf of adaptive athletes showed the world their truly remarkable athletic abilities.
A Memorial Celebration for Jack Benedick will be held from 3:00-6:00 p.m. (tribute at 4:00 p.m.) on Sunday, April 21 at The Applewood Golf Course in Golden, Colorado.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be given in Jack’s memory to The Jack Benedick Memorial Fund. This program will support elite level adaptive ski racers. Checks can be sent to The Jack Benedick Memorial Fund c/o Park City Foundation P.O. Box 681499 Park City, Utah 84098 or call 435 214-7475 to use a credit card.
Jack Benedick Chronology
Born: Feb. 6, 1943
Died: March 19, 2013 (70 years old)
1969Loses both legs in Vietnam
1970Returned to serve again in Vietnam as a double-amputee
1973Named head of the Rocky Mountain Disabled Sportsmen’s Association
1978Retired from the army, became president of the National Handicapped Sports and Recreation Association (now Disabled Sports USA)
1979Named to U.S. Disabled Ski Team (now U.S. Adaptive Ski Team)
1980Three top-five finishes in Paralympics in Geilo, Norway
1984Paralympic silver medal in combined, plus four top fives, Innsbruck, Austria
1987Named to U.S. Olympic Committee
1986Named director of adaptive skiing for USSA, serving until 1995
1988Plays key role in exhibition event at Calgary Olympics won by Diana Golden
1992Named International Paralympic Committee (IPC) alpine chairman
1992Inducted into National Disabled Ski Hall of Fame
1994Leads successful initiative to gain acceptance by FIS
2000Representative for winter sports to IPC Executive Committee
2000Receives USSA’s Bud and Mary Little Award for service on behalf of athletes in the FIS and USOC community
2006Receives Paralympic Order for 30 years of work on behalf of adaptive athletes
2006Retires as USSA Adaptive Sport Committee chair after over 20 years of work
2010Inducted into U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame’s Class of 2009