By Duncan Mackay

Jack Benedick head and shouldersMarch 19 - American Jack Benedick, one of the pioneers of Paralympic skiing, has died unexpectedly at his home in Denver at the age of 70, it was announced today. 

Benedick lost both legs while serving Vietnam in 1969, but later returned there to serve as a major – the only double amputee on active military duty. 

But, when he returned home, he learned to ski properly having been introduced to the sport while doing rehabilitation at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Centre in Denver.

He was named to the fledgling United States Adaptive ski team in 1979, continuing through a career that would be highlighted with a silver medal in combined at the 1984 Winter Paralympics in Innsbruck.

"Great leaders make it possible for athletes to achieve their Olympic (sic) dreams," said US Ski and Snowboard Association President and chief executive 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. chief of Paralympics at the United States Olympic Committee, paid his own tribute. 

"He was an iconic figure and was a significant leader in the Paralympic Movement who demanded and delivered excellence," he said.

"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 skiingJack Benedick in action on the slopes

Benedick was the leader of National Handicapped Sports Association - now Disabled Sports USA - and pushed programmes for adaptive athletes to be introduced nationally.

In the 1990s, Benedick fought for acceptance of adaptive skiing within the International Ski Federation.

In 2006 the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) gave him its Paralympic Order honoor for his 30 years of work for disabled athletes.

At the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games Chefs de Mission seminar, IPC President Sir Philip Craven led a minute's silence in tribute to Benedick.

A Memorial Celebration for Benedick is due to be heldat 2pm on Sunday April 21 at The Applewood Golf Course in Golden, Colorado.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be given in Benedick's memory to The Jack Benedick Memorial Fund. 

This programme will support elite level adaptive ski racers. 

Cheques can be sent to The Jack Benedick Memorial Fund c/o Park City Foundation P.O. Box 681499 Park City, Utah 84098, United States or call 1-435 214-7475 to use a credit card.

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