Ride of his life: Track manager poured heart and soul into Utah Olympic Park
"See you at the bottom."
That was how track manager David Dinger greeted sliders at the Utah Olympic Park, a comforting refrain before they would embark on a perilous high-speed trip down the icy track that Dinger worked so hard to perfect.
No doubt, many will hear his voice now when they think about Dinger, who passed away at 45 in his Park City home on Wednesday after a debilitating bout with cancer. Beginning with his first trip to the track for a luging clinic in 2001, Dinger held a passion for sliding sports that enriched not only the ice at the UOP but the experiences shared by those around him.
"David was more than a partner to our organization," said Darrin Steele, U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation CEO, in a statement to The Record. "He was a friend and family member to our community who touched all of our lives through his love and passion for life."
His love affair with speed began as a youth, when he was a fan of IndyCar racing as young as age 12. Dinger moved from California to Park City in 1992, working winters on the ski patrol at Park City Mountain Resort and summers at the Park Meadows Country Club. It was at the latter that he decided to attend greenskeeping school and gained knowledge about watering techniques that would later help him icing the track at the UOP.
He received a ticket to a luging clinic in December 2001 as a birthday gift, and a spark was lit. Following work on "curve 12" at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Dinger applied to become the UOP’s full-time track manager and began a career in sliding sports that would consume his waking hours until his final days.
"He had a special ability to bring out the best in his staff, the athletes, and a family of international officials who admired and respected his vision and leadership," said Colin Hilton, president of the Utah Athletic Foundation. "It will be an honor and privilege for us to continue operating the track and developing athletes in a way that David worked so hard to see happen."
In October 2009, doctors told Dinger he had renal cell carcinoma and began a series of therapies that made it increasingly difficult for him to perform his daily duties at UOP. Sill, despite feeling constant fatigue, anemia and nausea, Dinger traveled to the 2010 Games in Vancouver with the U.S. team.
"Now I feel better than I have in months," he told CTV at the Games. "I showed up here and suddenly gained a lot of strength."
When fellow Park City resident Steven Holcomb piloted the four-man bobsled team to its first gold medal in 62 years, he told media that Dinger played an instrumental role in the "Night Train" team’s success.
"David, this medal is as much yours as it is mine," he said. "Night Train would not be what it is today without you."
Last weekend, soon before it was announced on Facebook that Dinger was "on the last part of his journey," a group of bobsled and skeleton athletes produced a video expressing fond memories and gratitude for his contributions. It was Dinger’s love for the athletes that set him apart from other track managers, said the UOP’s R.J. Shannon.
"His legacy is yet to be fully realized as it lives on in the hopes and dreams of the athletes he touched," Shannon said.
In Dinger’s final personal Facebook update on June 4, he thanked family and friends for their support – including filling in for him at work and bringing him meals to reheat at home.
"It is hard to describe the emotion but I will try with one word . . . Love!" he said.
Dinger is survived by his sons Jack, 13, and Joe, 10.
As his final wish, the David Dinger Developmental Sliding Foundation (DDDSF) nonprofit was established shortly after his death to promote the sports of bobsled, skeleton and luge in Park City. The foundation’s first mission will be to purchase equipment to support local participation in training and competitions. Visit http://www.daviddingerfoundation.org for more information.
Funeral services for Dinger will be held at the UOP on Sunday, Aug. 29, at 2 p.m. The public is invited to attend, and donations to DDDSF are preferred to flowers. Julianne Rosen-Carone is setting up a Memory Tree on Saturday, Aug. 28 at the Park City Relay for Life so that people who knew Dinger can bring a picture or memento to hang on its branches. She can be e-mailed at email@example.com.
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Somewhere about the 35-foot level of the Flagstaff Mine, and moments after he called his friends above for light, the old ladder Paul Parmalee was descending gave way with a crash, and he plunged into the darkness to his death.