Respected worldwide as a leading name in classification of Para events, Dr. Juraj Stefak passed away on January 21 at the age of 69, following his long battle with cancer.
Born in Trnava, Slovakia on February 7, 1951.
He graduated from the Faculty of Medicine in Bratislava and he was a highly respected orthopedic surgeon in his hometown. His first contact with disabled sport was in 1980, when he had a meeting with Paralympian Jozef Buros, who at the time practised para cycling and cross-country skiing.
Due to his medical history, Stefak was invited to competitions for the disabled in Orava, a region of Slovakia where he has lived all his life. Growing interest in sports for the disabled, his first official participation in an international event was his presence as a doctor at the 1992 Winter Olympics held in the French cities of Tignes and Albertville.
He became a regular participant in the European Championships and the World Championships by fulfilling the roles of doctor, performer and administrator. In 1994 he was appointed chief medical officer of the Slovakian team at the Paralympic Games in Lillehammer. Shortly thereafter, he was approached by Ms Helena Hanková, whom had the greatest influence on his involvement in paravolley.
He became a WOVD international classifier in the mid-90s and served as team doctor and classifier until 2011 at the last World Cup. He also attended many World Championships, World Cups, European Championships and two Paralympic games as team doctor and classifier.
His events included:
- 1994 – World Championships (5th place), Team MD
- 1995 – European Championships (3rd place), Team MD
- 1996 – Paralympic Games (2nd place), Team MD
- 1997 – World Cup (3rd place), Team MD, WOVD classifier
- 1998 – World Championships (3rd place), Team MD
- 1999 – World Cup (3rd place), Team MD, WOVD classifier
- 2000 – Paralympic Games (3rd place), Team MD
- 2001 – World Cup (1st place), Team MD, WOVD classifier
- 2002 – World Championships (3rd place), Team MD
- 2003 – World Cup (1st place), Team MD, WOVD classifier
- 2004 – World Championships (2nd place), Team MD
- 2005 – World Cup (3rd place), Team MD
- 2006 – World Championships (3rd place), Team MD
- 2007 – World Cup (2nd place), Team MD, WOVD classifier
- 2009 – World Cup (2nd place), Team MD, WOVD classifier
- 2011 – World Cup (4th place), Team MD
World ParaVolley President Barry Couzner OAM said:
“As a technical official for many Standing Volleyball World Cups in the 2000s, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Stefak on many occasions in different countries. At all times he was very pleasant and professional and his expertise was greatly appreciated and admired by all. His passing is a great loss to Slovakia and World ParaVolley”