WILMINGTON, Del. – Frank Masley, a three-time Olympian and the first Olympic flagbearer in USA Luge history, lost his fight against cancer Saturday at his Wilmington, Del. home. The 56-year-old leaves behind his wife Donna and their three children. Information regarding calling hours and funeral services are not available at this time.
Masley was a member of the pioneer group of the 1970s that essentially created what became USA Luge. Those early days, led by Masley, saw a team with very few resources evolve into an organization that became a shining star in the U.S. Olympic movement, with Masley among its brightest.
“Having known Frank since the beginning of his luge career almost four decades ago, I am personally humbled and honored to have known him, and most grateful that he chose luge so he would become part of our family,” said Dwight Bell, USA Luge Board President.
Masley raced in the Olympic Winter Games of 1980 in Lake Placid. After securing a second berth in the Sarajavo Games four years later, his U.S. teammates voted him their flagbearer for the Opening Ceremonies.
“It’s got to be my proudest moment,” Masley told The Delaware News Journal after the 1984 Opening Ceremonies. “I felt so proud to be an American.”
Shortly thereafter USA Luge started attracting the kind of sponsorship that enabled it to become an international contender.
Masley’s final Olympic appearance occurred in Calgary in 1988. Throughout his career, he amassed a team record 10 national championships.
“Frank was the guy everyone liked and respected - even when he was beating you on the ice,” said Ron Rossi, teammate and contemporary of Masley’s who also served as the organization’s long-time Executive Director. “I had the utmost respect for him as a competitor, but more so as a person - and that was affirmed by the life he led after luge. As good a luger as he was, he was an even better man, husband, father and business owner. We all meet many people in our lives, but rarely do we have the honor of meeting anyone as good and pure as Frank Masley.”
Upon hanging up his sled, he served the organization as a member of its board of directors. He also started Masley Enterprises, with Donna, and supplied gloves to his beloved luge team as well as the U.S. military.
“Frank was one of the first people to reach out to me when I came on board,” said Jim Leahy, USA Luge CEO. “He was a phenomenal asset for me. As a guy who also grew up in Delaware, I recall him carrying the flag. For a guy from Delaware to do this, was very special. I believe he is the lone Delaware resident to ever to that.”
A graduate of Drexel University in Philadelphia, Masley had a degree in civil engineering. He was inducted into the Delaware Hall of Fame in 1997.
“Frank is USA Luge,” said Dmitry Feld, one of Masley’s first coaches and the current USA Luge Marketing Manager. “There’s nobody with the personality and accomplishments like Frank. He is Mr. Luge. When he carried the American flag in 1984, it showed that Frank’s legacy is USA Luge. He is larger than life. Memories of Frank will be with us for a long, long time.”
Another of Frank’s early coaches was Bob Hughes, who later became the team’s Marketing Director before moving into television with Carr-Hughes Productions.
"Frank was the most complete athlete a coach could ever dream of,” remarked Hughes. “He was the full package: hard-working, self-motivated, clever and fiercely competitive. You never had to push Frank. He was always working harder than a coach could ask. And beyond all that, he was a great teammate, always ready to help and willing to lead.”
Hughes, another member of the aforementioned founders group, continued.
“Frank was the athlete who changed the U.S. Luge program,” Hughes added. “His training ethic and his willingness to devote himself to the sport year-round set the standard that athletes today strive to meet. More importantly, though, I was blessed to have Frank as a friend. I can't imagine the loss that his family feels and my heart goes out them.”
Luge Olympian Doug Bateman, a longtime friend of Masley’s, was another who felt the tragic loss.
“Frank was an athlete that seemed to be born to luge. He was very strong and very precise. The faster he went the cooler under pressure he was,” said Bateman. In fact, Masley secured his 1984 Olympic berth by merely 0.003 of a second.
“He always helped his teammates and did what was best for the team and the organization. Frank and Ray Bateman (cousin) helped Ron (Rossi) and I in our doubles careers. I was blessed to be able to compete with Frank in the ‘84 Games. He was a great luger, a great husband to Donna and father to his three children. He fought his cancer with the same determination he had as an athlete and as a successful businessman. The world has lost a good one. He will be missed.”
USA Luge was anticipating Masley’s appearance December 2-3 at the Lake Placid World Cup and annual Executive Summit of its sponsors, also at that time. At a recent summit at team headquarters, USA Luge leadership was regaling with the sponsors the on-ice achievements of its athletes and their ability to act as sport ambassadors. As he heard the presentation, Masley’s eyes welled up and tears tricked down his cheeks.
The upcoming December events and activities will take place as scheduled, but one very significant and notable supporter and sponsor will be absent.