Nick Salvatore Scandone

March 4, 1966 - January 2, 2009

Santa Ana, California

Nicholas Salvatore Scandone proudly carried the American flag at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony in Beijing, China on September 8, 2008 on behalf of the entire American team. Scandone’s battle with Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease), was well advanced on the eve of the competition. His crew, Maureen McKinnon-Tucker, was sailing in her second Games in the SKUD 18 class. Scandone was classified as a 1 on the scale of disability eligibility which that ranges from 1-7, with 1 being the most severely disabled. Nick explained their roles on the boat, “I do all the tactical and she pulls all the strings.” The Americans finished with an impressive 2-1-1-1-3-2-1-1-2 to win the Gold Medal against ten other countries. He had been diagnosed with ALS six years earlier. He explained that sailing was giving him strength to battle the disease, “It was something to keep my mind off what was happening to my body.” He added, “I’m fortunate to have quite a bit of a sailing background before I became disabled. I’m just living the dream and having a good time doing it.”

Scandone grew up sailing Naples Sabots out of the Balboa Yacht Club in California. He raced for the University of California, Irvine. His team won the Intercollegiate Team Race National Championship in 1988. Scandone was named to the All American Team that year. He went on to try for an Olympic berth in the International 470 Class and just missed qualifying for the 1992 Games in the USA trials. In 2005 Scandone was named Rolex Yachtsman of the Year for winning the 2.4 Metre Class Open World Championship held in Isola d’Elba, Italy. Scandone finished with a 10-3-3-1-3-1-4 series against 88 boats that included both able-bodied and disabled sailors.

Scandone’s wife, Mary-Kate, and his brother Rocky were with him during the Paralympic Games in China. Nick and Mary-Kate were married in 1998 and spent their honeymoon sailing in the British Virgin Islands. He had been working as a restaurant equipment salesman when he was diagnosed with ALS in 2003. From that moment he decided to spend the rest of his life racing sailboats. Mary-Kate told the Los Angeles Times what the Gold Medal meant to her husband, “It was a joyous occasion and he will live in history as a Gold Medalist.” His brother, Rocky, added, “It was sort of a blessing when he found Paralympic sailing. It got him focused on what he loved to do again.”

~Gary Jobson

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