Three-time Paralympic medallist Josh Dueck of Vernon, one of the most influential para-alpine athletes of his generation, announced Thursday that he is retiring from competitive ski racing, effective immediately.
Dueck, an ace sit-skier on the Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team, who most recently won gold and silver medals at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Winter Games plans to stay involved in the sport in a number of ways.
However, he will be exchanging race bibs for the spit-up bibs of his young daughter, Nova, as he takes time to focus on family and life in Vernon with his wife, Lacey.
“It has been an amazing run,” said Dueck, 33, a native of Kimberley. “I may be retiring from ski racing, but I’m not retiring from skiing. I’m still going to build my winter around my passion for skiing, but I’m really excited about focusing on my family and on projects that I haven’t had the ability to devote energy to while racing.”
A former freestyle skiing coach, Dueck broke his back when he overshot a demonstration jump and was told he would have to rock the world in a wheelchair.
He has done just that.
Since his introduction to para-alpine racing in 2005 – just one year after his accident – Dueck has earned 10 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup podiums, was crowned the 2009 world downhill champion, and won gold in super combined and silver in downhill at the 2014 Paralympics, as well as silver in slalom at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Winter Games.
Dueck’s accomplishments often transcend the traditional alpine racecourse.
He won gold in Mono Skier X at the 2011 X Games, and in 2012 became the first sit-skier to complete a backflip on snow – a feat that earned him international acclaim and an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Last year he delivered a TEDx Talk about overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.
“Josh has had an incredibly successful career as a ski racer,” said Brianne Law, athletic director of the Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team.
“I’ve watched him crash hard, go big, take risks, and reap the rewards in the end. He has helped bring awareness to sit-skiing and the Paralympic movement, and has helped redefine Canada as a leading nation in the modern para-alpine sport system.
“Although Josh is retiring from the competitive side of our sport, I know that he will continue to help bring awareness to the Paralympic movement no matter where his life takes him.”
Dueck almost left the sport in 2013 when he injured his shoulder and was struggling to achieve the results he wanted.
“I had this turning point where I really had to refocus. I realized that I wanted to end my career on a high note, not a low note,” said Dueck. “I was able to find that zone, reconnect with my equipment, and everything lined up at the exact right moment in Sochi. I was able to ski the way I wanted to, and ski well. To have the honour of being the flag-bearer at the end of the Games, it really solidified that experience for me.”
For Dueck, skiing for his country has been a life-changing experience.
“Being a para-alpine athlete has instilled in me a great sense of confidence,” he said.
“We’re treated like any other athlete, and what’s expected from us is no different. It creates such a demand that it forces discipline. That discipline causes us to move beyond what we think we’re capable of…The person that I am today is a direct result of the opportunities I’ve had as an athlete on the Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team.
“I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude towards my coaches and everyone who believed in me throughout my racing career. My friends, my family, my teammates, my sponsors, Alpine Canada – I’ve been lucky that so many people have supported me. Without them none of it would have happened.”
Dueck is working on a book about redefining what’s possible, as told through his personal experiences. He also plans to stay involved as an ambassador for para-alpine skiing through coaching, mentoring, and helping to test and develop equipment for upcoming athletes.
Dueck will pursue his passion for freeskiing as an athlete at the upcoming XGames, and by filming projects like the award-winning documentary, The Freedom Chair.