Canada’s Paralympic community has lost one of its longtime champions and ambassadors with the passing of David Cook of Victoria on Friday. He was 62.
Cook teamed with John McRoberts, Kirk Westergaard and Kenneth Kelly to win the silver medal in the mixed crewboat at the 1996 Paralympic Games held in Atlanta. Sailing at those Games was a demonstration sport and would become official in 2000.
“He was a mentor and inspirer who loved sailing,” fellow Paralympian Stacie Louttit of Victoria told the Times-Colonist about Cook. Louttit won a bronze medal in the two-person keelboat alongside McRoberts at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.
“David was a smart sailor. He was a character. He was one of a kind. He was brave and bold.”
At age 17, Cook was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a degenerative neurological disease. However that never prevented him from participating in sports and at age 19 he got the bug for sailing, which would become his life’s greatest passion.
On his website davidcook.ca he wrote: “I first got the idea when I was 19 years old from a couple of workmates who were young but seasoned sailors. One had circumnavigated Vancouver Island, with a friend, on a tiny 18-foot keelboat. After hearing their stories, I immediately began dreaming about sailing, and soon bought my own boat. I wanted to create my own life-long memories.”
He retired from competitive sailing in 1997 at age 38. In 2008, he moved into competing in radio-controlled model sailboat racing and became one of the most prominent designers and builders of the models.
Cook, who is survived by his wife Raewyn, was also founder of the Victoria Sailing Foundation which helped youth and people with disabilities build up their confidence through sailing.
At the time of his passing, Cook was working on a book about his life, sharing his “challenges, solutions and lessons learnt in life”, which he had mostly completed.
A celebration of life will be held this summer at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club.
The Canadian Paralympic Committee expresses its sincere condolences to all of David's family, friends, and fellow members of the sailing world.