Considering his pre-eminent status as "the father of freestyle World Cup skiing," Irving Kagan didn't jump from his cradle to a ski trail.
Quite the contrary. Kagan, who died December 1,2005 at the age of 76, never set foot on a ski mountain until 1966. This was some 38 years after he was born in Lynn, MA.
The reason for his late arrival wasn't fueled by his own curiosity. His daughter, Candace, oldest of four children, said she wanted to learn to ski.
Two years later, the Kagan family was so enamored of the sport that Irv and his late wife, Paula, built a home for the family at Sugarloaf/USA. Thus was born Kagan's devotion to skiing.
His dedication culminated in the presentation of the Julius Blegen Award, the United States Ski and Snowboard Association's highest volunteer honor at ceremonies in Park City, Utah on September 10, 1998.
Kagan was recognized for being at the forefront of USSA's drive to win approval for freestyle skiing as an Olympic sport. As a result of his efforts, moguls was introduced in 1992 while aerials was added two years later.
The son of a Jewish immigrant who left Russia in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, Kagan came to Maine in 1945 with his family. He learned the value of hard work and planning in the family business, Kagan-Lown manufacturing in Bangor and later the Penobscot Shoe Company. After finishing high school in Bangor, Kagan enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning a degree in three years. When Kagan's interest in skiing blossomed, his management and engineering skills led to the development of uniform scoring and judging protocols.
As Chairman of the Eastern Freestyle Competition Committee, Kagan pushed for creation of published rule books governing freestyle competition. He also spent many 12-hour days on the ski hill developing and implementing a program for organizing competitions. This work stands as the foundation of Freestyle events today.
He subsequently rose to the posts of chairman of the National Freestyle Competition Committee, the USSA Board of Directors and Vice President of USSA Freestyle.
"Irving used his national stature to bring freestyle skiing out of its 'hot dog' roots into the mainstream of international competition," said Bill Marolt, President and Chief Executive Officer of USSA.
"Under his organizational leadership, USSA Freestyle became dominant in international competition. As an organization, we rely on dedicated volunteers like Irv Kagan. He represents the very best of our organization."
Of all the honors Irv Kagan received for service to skiing, the one that he prized the most came in the form of recognition by the sport's athletes. In 1998, the United States Freestyle Ski Team honored Kagan with a plaque signed in gold by all its members.
On it are inscribed the following words: "In recognition of his substantial contributions to the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team in those years when only THE FEW AND THE BRAVE supported our sport."
Maine Sports Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 2
Cumberland, ME 04021
Phone (207) 807-7666
The Maine Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1972 for the purpose of: 1) appointing and bestowing recognition awards and scholarships to outstanding Maine high school scholar-athletes; and, 2) to formally honor and memorialize Maine athletes and sports figures who have brought distinction and honor to the state of Maine.