The first UT-affiliated individual to serve as a judge at a Winter Olympics event was Dr. Igor Nabelek. Nabelek, a professor of audiology and speech pathology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville until his retirement in 1997, served as a judge for long-jump competition in skiing at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Nabelek had been a member of the National Ski Patrol since 1970.
A native of Czechoslovakia, he was the unofficial junior skiing champion before World War II. While he was a college student, he participated in the Slovak National Uprising against the German Army in World War II and was a prisoner of war. Both he and his brother were sentenced to death, but for some reason the sentences were not carried out. His two sons were held hostage in Czechoslovakia by communist authorities until after the Warsaw Pact invasion of 1968.
In 1944 he raced in downhill and slalom in the Grand Prix of Slovakia and in other international races. Following the war, he attended the Czech Technical University at Prague, earning a degree in electrical engineering and the PhD in electroacoustics. He then worked in the Physics Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava. He came to the United States in 1967 to be a visiting scholar at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis. In 1970 he became a research professor at the University of Maryland, and he joined the faculty at UT in 1973. He was the author of many scientific papers and textbook chapters and fostered scientific exchanges between UT and the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic.