Jack Benedick (deceased)
Year Inducted: 2009
Born: February 6, 1943
Died: March 19, 2013
Jack Benedick's career in skiing started by accident, as a means of rehabilitation after losing both legs in Vietnam, and 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 loosely-organized 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 yet to come. After retiring as an athlete, Benedick wanted to elevate the position of his sport. While adaptive sports organizations were providing good introductory programs, Benedick 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 1980s, 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 1990s, 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 the presentation of the Paralympic Order.
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.