Vernon’s Josh Dueck knew in advance the challenges he’d face upon being named Canada’s head ambassador at the 2022 Paralympic Games.
Fortunately, the retired Paralympian is well versed in taking on challenges.
Dueck has been named Team Canada’s chef de mission for Beijing 2022, meaning he’ll serve as an ambassador for the team leading into the Games.
Dueck said he was pinching himself after he got the call, and his initial disbelief has since given way to unbridled excitement.
“I’m over the moon,” Dueck said. “It’s an incredible honour and a privilege, and there’s a sense of duty to it as well because it’s a great chance to support the athletes and get to know them and cheer them on their journey.”
Dueck, 39, was inducted into the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame last year. He made his Paralympic debut in Vancouver in 2010, winning the silver medal in the men’s sitting slalom. He then won gold in the super combined four years later at the Sochi Games along with a silver medal in the downhill, and was chosen to bear the Canadian flag at the closing ceremonies.
Six years before the Vancouver Games, Dueck was injured in a ski accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. The life-changing injury hasn’t kept him sidelined by any stretch; on top of his three Paralympic medals, Dueck is the executive director of Freestyle BC, and made international news after becoming the world’s first sit-skier to land a backflip back in 2012.
Though his is a story of inspiration, Dueck says it’s not his story that matters now; rather, what matters is the unwritten stories of the athletes who will compete in Beijing.
He says he’s excited to use the tools he’s acquired over the years to help those athletes along their journey.
“I think if anything, the lived experience that I have might provide me the insights that I need, the empathy that is needed, the vulnerability and the willingness to really dive deep with the athletes and the teams.”
Dueck says he’s not sure what led to his selection for the role, but if he had to guess, his personality and diverse experience within the Olympic body didn’t hurt his bid.
“I would think that they picked me on my tenacious spirit, my desire to be authentic in every opportunity that’s being presented, my background in sport both as a coach, an athlete and even most recently as an administrator.”
He’ll have a chance to prepare by watching 19-time Paralympic medalist Stephanie Dixon serve as Canada’s chef de mission at the postponed 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
“I have no doubt that this role is going to be incredibly challenging during these unstable times that we’re all living through and that’s why I wanted to take on the job,” he said.
And yet, the role is a good excuse to look ahead to 2022, beyond the pandemic, when Canadians can hopefully gather in numbers to watch the Games unfold from afar.
“There’s something so special about these games, and to be a part of that effort moving forward towards Beijing… it’s going to bring these athletes great hope to have that target in sight,” Dueck said.
”I can’t help but think it’s going to provide a lot of Canadians something to look forward to as we cheer them on.”