Paralympic Gold Medalist Nick Scandone Loses Battle with ALS

Jan. 02, 2009, 8:56 p.m. (ET)
Paralympic Gold Medalist Nick Scandone (Fountain Valley, Calif.), 42, passed away on January 2, after a long battle with ALS, also commonly called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a debilitating neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Scandone won a coveted gold medal with teammate Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass.) in the SKUD-18 class at the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Regatta in Qingdao, China, this past summer.

“The sport of sailing has lost a great competitor and the most inspirational person most of us will ever know,” said Dean Brenner, Chairman of US SAILING’s Olympic Sailing Program. “Words can’t describe the pride so many people felt watching Nick take the last few steps towards his dream in China last summer. He was a gold medalist on and off the water, and we’ll miss him dearly.”

Scandone beat the odds of his disease by not only being strong enough to compete at the 2008 Paralympic Games, but by winning the gold medal a day early, with two races left to go. “It’s been such a long road to get [to the 2008 Games],” said Scandone after he won. “It’s emotionally overwhelming for me to finally realize my goal.” There were countless days filled with doubt, exhaustion and adversity, but he and McKinnon-Tucker met each challenge with incredible strength and determination. Scandone was a US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics member, named US SAILING’s 2008 Sportsman of the Year, nominated for US SAILING’s 2008 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtsman of the Year award and winner of US SAILING’s 2005 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Award.