Hal O’Leary, a pioneer in adaptive sports, passed away on June 3rd. O’Leary was one of the founders of the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD), a Move United member organization.
O’Leary devoted half his life to enabling the spirit through sport and he made significant contributions in the field of adaptive skiing. His leadership in the adaptive sports movement began in 1970. While serving as a ski instructor at Winter Park Resort, he volunteered to give a one-time ski lesson to 23 children with amputations from Children’s Hospital. He took three days off his regular teaching job and taught himself to ski on one leg using outriggers. O’Leary’s method, using smooth Christy turns, created a whole new system of skiing for people with disabilities.
From that one ski lesson, he ended up creating one of the largest adaptive ski programs in the country. In 1973, he would print the first teaching manual and subsequently wrote or contributed to several other teaching manuals.
Named one of “the best 100 things to happen to skiing” by Ski Magazine, O’Leary has coached the U.S. Disabled Olympic Team and traveled around the world teaching other ski programs how to include people with disabilities. Some of O’Leary’s extended achievements which have gained recognition follow:
- 1978 Hal O’Leary’s, Winter Park Recreation Association, Distinguished Service Award
• 1979 March 10, Governor Richard Lamm proclaims this Hal O’Leary Day in Colorado
• 1982 Hal O’Leary, Golden Quill Award from U.S. Ski Writers Association for outstanding contribution to American skiing
• 1988 Hal O’Leary, Appreciation Award from Australian Disabled kiers Foundation
• 1990 Hal O’Leary inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame
• 1990 Hal O’Leary receives the Leota F. Pekrul Service Award for Excellence
• 1990 National Sports Center for the Disabled, the El Pomar Award for Excellence
• 1992 Hal O’Leary receives the Jimmie Heuga Award from the Far West Ski Association
• 1992 Hal O’Leary receives the James R. Winthers Memorial Award, National Handicap Sports top Award
• 1992 National Sports Center for the Disabled, Appreciation award from Amputee Coalition of America
• 1992 Hal O’Leary named one of the 100 Best Things That Ever Happened to Skiing y SKI Magazine
• 1993 National Sports Center for the Disabled, the Colorado Tourism Achievement Special Award from the Colorado Tourism Board
• 1993 Hal O’Leary, Program Director, the James Brady Award from the Colorado Sports Council and creation of the Hal O’Leary Meet the Challenge Award to be awarded annually to a disabled skier by the Colorado Sports Council
- 1994 Hal O’Leary was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame
- 1997 Hal O’Leary elected to the Disabled Ski Hall of Fame (Recreation/Development category)
His legacy and the thousands of lives he has positively impacted throughout his life will live on forever.