Becoming a world champion sailor is impressive. Doing it when battling a paralyzing disease and competing against able-bodied sailors, that’s impossible – or so it might seem to everyone but Nick Scandone ’90.

Scandone has Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. His body grows weaker by the day; he walks with a cane and wears braces on his legs. The disease typically ends in respiratory failure within five years of diagnosis.

When Scandone was diagnosed four years ago, the Fountain Valley resident vowed to enjoy whatever time he had pursuing his favorite sport – sailing. In September, he raced his yacht to victory in the 2.4 Metre World Championship in Italy – one of many wins that earned him the U.S. Sailing’s 2005 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award.

“This is something I never dreamed would happen,” Scandone said. “I’ve always admired the people who have received this award in the past, and to have my name included is something I will always be proud of and cherish for the rest of my life.”

At UCI, while studying for his bachelor’s degree in social sciences, Scandone helped his sailing team win the 1988 North American Dinghy and Team Racing Championships and earned All-American honors.

Today, he’s at least 40 pounds lighter than he was during his college days, but his competitive spirit sails on. He’s already eyeing the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Think he can’t do it? As Scandone has already proved on the water, anything’s possible.