Disabled Ski Pioneer Diana Golden Dies - Ski Mag

Disabled Ski Pioneer Diana Golden Dies


Bristol, Rhode Island, Aug. 25, 2001--Diana Golden Brosnihan, 38, who set the standard that took racing for disabledskiers from a recreational sport to Olympic gold, completed the race of her life against the disease that hadactually defined her life. Golden died Aug. 26, 2001 at Women's and Infant's Hospital in Providence, R.I., with herhusband, Steve, and family and friends at her side.

Golden lost her right leg to bone cancer when she was 12 years old. It barely slowed her down, and certainlynever "handicapped" her, neither on snow, nor in life. One of the first things she asked her doctor was whethershe would be able to continue skiing. He said, "Yes," and the rest is part of her legacy. She developed a passionfor ski racing in high school and while at Dartmouth College. Her whirlwind racing career took off soon after shegraduated in 1984 with a B.A. in English Literature.

Golden was a member of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team from 1979-1982, and again from 1985-1990. Her goal wasnot to be one of the best, but "the" best. It was a goal she sought with vengeance and achieved in high style.

She amassed an incredible total of gold medals during her eight years in the racing gates and on the downhillcourses. Golden took gold home ten times at the World Disabled Ski Championships, winning three gold medals inboth 1986 and 1990 and two in 1988. She dominated the U.S. Disabled Alpine Championships in giant slalom,slalom, downhill and combined categories, winning 19 gold medals. She won all three events and the combinedchampionships at national finals in 1987 and 1988.

When disabled skiing was introduced as a Demonstration Sport at the Winter Olympics at Calgary in 1988, theworld watched her lead a USA medal sweep in the Women's Disabled Slalom. Those events led to the presentParalympics that follow each Olympic Games.

"We all admired Diana's spirit and her competitive nature," said U.S. Ski Team President and CEO Bill Marolt,who had recognized Golden at her induction into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame. "As you watched her compete,she had incredible athletic ability. That, along with her competitive nature, made her what she was - a greatchampion. We will miss her as an athlete, but her spirit will motivate fellow athletes for years to come."

Golden has long been active in Disabled Sports/USA (formerly National Handicapped Sports), and returned to theski slopes under the tutelage of Kirk Bauer, now Executive Director of the national community-basedorganization that helps disabled youngsters and adults return to active and productive lifestyles through skiingand other sports.

"I remember this skinny, bald, pale little girl who came to my ski class not long after she had her legamputated. She was the most precocious kid I ever met," Bauer recalls. "I remember telling her mother Dianawas either going to be a great athlete and leader or a juvenile delinquent. She was to her sport what MichaelJordan is to basketball or Tiger Woods is to golf. She defined disabled sports better than anyone who camebefore."

Jennifer Zanca was Golden's coach from 1988 until she retired from ski racing in 1991. She has remained aclose friend over the years. "Diana was a challenge. I used to tell her I was her coach first and her friendsecond," Zanca said. "She was strong-minded, so it was always my game to get her to think a new technique orstyle was actually her idea so she'd try it. I recently confessed to her that I had lied. She was my friend first.She really was my teacher."

Golden has received more than 30 awards, honors and degrees, highlighted by her induction into the U.S. NationalSki Hall of Fame and the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. She received the prestigious FloHyman Award from the Women's Sports Foundation in 1991.

She won the U.S. Ski Association Beck International and Buddy Werner Awards. She was named "U.S. Skier of theYear" by Skiing Magazine, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the North AAmerican Snow Journalists Association.Boston Woman Magazine listed her as one of the "100 Most Interesting Women in Boston." She has been featuredin countless media stories from The NBC Today Show to Sports Illustrated, to a recent profile in Reader'sDigest. She received an Honorary Degree in Pedagogy from Rhode Island College and the inaugural PresidentialMedal for Outstanding Leadership and Achievement from Dartmouth College.

Jack Benedick, who directed the Disabled Ski Program for U.S. Skiing during Golden's attack on the world'savailable gold medals, said her "commitment to training led her to become the best any athlete could possiblybe. "Diana was a pioneer in helping to put the sport on the map. She was the first disabled skier to tacklemarketing herself and the sport, and she lured major corporate sponsorships to disabled skiing for the firsttime," Benedick said. Golden was a spokesperson for Chap Stick Lip Products, Jefferies & Company, Subaru ofAmerica, Whitetail Ski Resort, and the Jimmy Fund.

Her influence on ski racing inspired U.S. Skiing to institute the "Golden Rule," enabling disabled ski competitorsto race at an early seed in all USSA-sanctioned events, not just those for disabled athletes. The early startposition makes it possible for disabled racers to avoid the deep ruts that can form on hard race courses.

She formed her own company soon after retiring from the ski slopes to market herself as a motivationalspeaker. She honed her skills in public speaking with the same passion she took to ski racing and was soon indemand. She electrified audiences of corporate executives and employees by telling how she had embraced theconstant changes in her life, inspiring them to "overcome your fears, pursue your dreams and to never give up."This was during the same period when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she battled withchemotherapy for six years.

"The entire audience of 1,200 at our convention was absolutely enraptured by your presentation," wrote RobertP. Flack of Sonic Industries, Inc. following a Golden session. She addressed groups as diverse as the AdolphCoors Company to General Electric; from MasterCard International to the Texas Society of AssociationExecutives.

"Diana wasn't handicapped," says sports filmmaker Warren Miller, who featured Golden skiing in several of hismost popular movies. "When she lost her leg to cancer and rediscovered her freedom on a single ski, shedeveloped a do-it-better-attitude that grew until she dominated the ski racing scene like no one had ever donebefore. Her impact on the world of skiing in particular and my life in general will be felt forever."

Golden, who has been undergoing chemotherapy constantly for the past six years, still took time to work withchildren and adults in a variety of settings, motivating them to persevere.

She established the "Golden Opportunities Fund" this summer. The endowment fund, chaired by Zanca, will beused "to support and encourage junior disabled athletes in their pursuit of excellence in skiing." Donations inher memory should be sent to: Golden Opportunities Fund, c/o Disabled Sports USA, 451 Hungerford Dr., #100,Rockville, MD 20850.

"When we fall, we have to get up again and again," she told her audiences. "Persistence is what wins - that's it.There aren't any mystical, magical secrets; we simply have to find the will within ourselves to never, nevergive up."

Golden is survived by her husband, Steve Brosnihan; her mother Sylvia Finlay Golden of Bristol, RI; sister MerylLim of Carlisle, MA and brother Mark Golden of Lincoln, MA. Connors Funeral Home, Portsmouth, RI, is managingfuneral arrangements. Details are available at (401) 683-2511.