Vernon-based Paralympian, Josh Dueck, believes that sport has the power to unite people—inspiration gleaned from South African leader Nelson Mandela. Though his journey has taken him around the globe, Josh has found and forged a strong community right here at Silver Star.
The athlete, who has dedicated his 20-plus year career as a skier, coach, and sport advocate, is no stranger to tackling challenges. His lived experience is dotted by pivotal moments that left him to rely on his passion and perseverance.
Josh first ventured to Vernon from Kimberley to take on the position of head coach for the Silver Star Freestyle Ski Club, which is renowned for grooming world-class athletes (think: Olympics and X-Games calibre). It was here, in 2004, that he suffered a life-changing spinal cord injury while performing a jump, which left him paralyzed on the lower half of his body.
“Unfortunately, my tenure as head coach didn’t last that long because of the injury that I sustained; however, I felt it was imperative that I stay in the community and go through my healing journey with the athletes that were witness to my injury, their parents, the families, and the overarching ski community around Silver Star.”
In those early days, he made the choice to triumph through tragedy by shifting his perception of how one can move through the mountains. And here, on the slopes of SilverStar Mountain Resort, a sit-skiing star was born.
Among many other accolades, Josh is a gold and silver medallist at the 2010 and 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, an X Games gold and bronze medallist, a BC Sports and Canadian Paralympic Hall of Famer, and a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee recipient. He is also the first person to perform a backflip on a sit-ski. All of this, performed with his special recipe of grit and grace.
Incredible skiing conditions aside, the strong sense of community at Silver Star is what has inspired Josh to stay in Vernon and start a family here with his wife Lacey.
“It’s always hard to put words to the intangible in the sense of what makes the Silver Star community and clubs so great,” he explains. “It’s the people and the families; and the leadership in those ski clubs that empower the families to actively be part of that community. Skiing’s pretty great for that.”
Though now retired from competition, he’s still active in the skiing community as Executive Director of Freestyle BC.
“I have a direct effect on a few thousand kids in the community, a few hundred coaches around the province, which is pretty great,” he shares. “To continue to be a voice for athletes and be a champion for sport seems like the right thing for me to do considering how blessed I’ve been because of sport.”
Josh’s recent adventures in sport brought him on a whirlwind journey to China, where he was Canadian Chef de Mission for the Beijing 2022 Paralympics. Being team captain during a pandemic is not without its adversity.
“Through the process, we set a North Star which was the ‘why’— something that we could continue to go back to through even most difficult times to stay oriented,” he says. “And the ‘why’ was to elevate, motivate, and unite people through sport. To elevate others through our life and actions, to motivate others to move their body, and to unite people at a time when it’s needed most. Through the pandemic we leaned into that ethos and it carried the whole team through.”
Now that the excitement of the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games is behind him, Josh is turning his sights to his next big endeavour as an elected member of the International Paralympic Committee Athletes’ Council.
Josh sees an opportunity to bring his learnings from the international sporting arena back to the Silver Star ski community—which is well-positioned as interest in the sport grows.
“You can find and feel the million different reasons why Silver Star is a good place to be. Looking back, there are many reasons why it’s great, but looking ahead is what’s got me most excited.”
Photo Credits: Seb Berthiaume, Mason Mashon, Bruno Long, Seb Berthiaume