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INTERNATIONAL PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE
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a male Para skier

Andrew Kurka

Alpine Skiing
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After a series of injuries that prevented him from competing at more events, Andrew Kurka came back stronger than ever for 2017/2018.

At his maiden Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, the US sit-skier took gold in the men’s downhill and silver in the super-G.

But as a child his dream had nothing to do with slopes and snow. Kurka wanted to become a professional wrestler and one day qualify for the Olympic Games. However, at age 13 an accident while riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) severely damaged three vertebrae in the middle of his spinal cord and his dream was over.

Two years later he tried mono-ski for the first time and in 2010 was called up to the USA´s Paralympic team. Since then, he has competed at various World Cups and three World Championships in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

He claimed his first major medal in Panorama, Canada, in 2015, when he took bronze in the men's super-G sitting.

Two years later, Kurka won gold in the downhill, silver in the giant slalom and bronze in the super-G at the Worlds in Tarvisio, Italy.

Kurka is also a bodybuilder, works as a country music DJ and chronicles his adventures in YouTube videos.

Biography

Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Spinal Cord Injuries
Origin of Impairment
Acquired
Classification
LW12-1

Further personal information

Residence
Aspen, CO, USA
Occupation
Athlete, Coach, Media Professional - Radio
Languages
English, German

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
He began skiing in 2008 at age 15 in Alaska, United States of America.
Why this sport?
His physical therapist Anne Thomas took him to his first monoski lesson. "It was a independent individual sport that my fearless attitude was able to naturally excel at."
Club / Team
Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club: United States
Name of coach
Ben Black [national]

International debut

Year
2012
Competing for
United States
Location
Winter Park, CO, USA

General interest

Hobbies
Fishing, cycling, hunting, cooking, spending time with family, wrestling, American football, bodybuilding. (Facebook profile, 19 Sep 2017; Facebook page, 18 Sep 2017; paralympic.org, 31 Jan 2017)
Memorable sporting achievement
Being the first monoskier to ski the Christmas Chute in Alaska, United States of America. (IPC, 10 Feb 2018)
Hero / Idol
US Para alpine skiers Chris Devlin-Young and Tyler Walker. (adaptivespirit.org, 27 May 2012)
Injuries
A broken thigh bone prevented him from competing at the 2015 Winter X Games in Aspen, CO, United States of America. (teamusa.org, 08 Mar 2017; paralympic.org, 27 Dec 2015)

He broke his back during his first training run at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, and was unable to compete at the Games. (ktuu.com, 09 Mar 2014)

He broke his back on a practice run ahead of the 2011 Winter X Games in Aspen. He required six months of rehabilitation. (radiofreepalmer.org, 20 Aug 2012; anchoragepress.com, 03 Nov 2011)

He underwent shoulder surgery in 2010. (IPC, 10 Feb 2018)

He broke his right ankle during the downhill event of the 2009 National Championships in Great Sky, MT, United States of America. (anchoragepress.com, 03 Nov 2011)

He suffered a broken back in 2005. (IPC, 10 Feb 2018)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"Life's short, live it fast." (IPC, 10 Feb 2018)
Awards and honours
He was named 2018 Adaptive Athlete of the Year by the Colorado Snowsports Museum in Vail, CO, United States of America. (vaildaily.com, 22 Sep 2018)

He was shortlisted in the Best Male Athlete with Disability category of the 2018 Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly [ESPY] Awards in the United States of America. (paralympic.org, 22 Jun 2018)
Other sports
He had ambitions to compete at an Olympic Games in Greco-Roman wrestling before his accident. One year after breaking his back, he won a sixth Alaska state championship by beating able-bodied opponents. (radiofreepalmer.org, 20 Aug 2012; dsusa.org, 30 Dec 2010)
Ambitions
To win a gold medal at the 2019 World Championships in Slovenia and Italy, and to compete at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing. (teamusa.org, 18 Jan 2019; ktuu.com, 18 Apr 2018)
Impairment
He broke his back at age 13 in a four-wheel motorbike accident in Alaska, United States of America. He damaged three vertebrae in his spinal cord, resulting in partial paraplegia. "I was going out fishing, flipped the four-wheeler which landed on me, and broke my back. I completely lost the feeling and movement in the lower half of my body. It took about six months of hard work to get any sensation back, and then I got a little feeling and a little movement and started being able to get around in leg braces." (IPC, 10 Feb 2018; radiofreepalmer.org, 17 Aug 2012; anchoragepress.com, 03 Nov 2011; dsusa.org, 30 Dec 2010)
Other information
PRESSURE OFF
After sustaining several injuries throughout his career he says winning three medals at the 2017 World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy, took some pressure off him. “Winning at the world championships came at a great time. It was the moment where I realised I could do this. That confidence really helped boost me. Starting my career I'd broken a bone almost every season since I started racing and that was the first year I really focused on staying consistent. It helped me to realise that a lot of what I do here in this sport is not necessarily all about getting a gold medal and winning. A lot of times it's about the journey, and being a little better tomorrow than you were yesterday.” (teamusa.org, 18 Jan 2019)

DETERMINATION
After being told by a doctor that there would be limits to what he could do following his accident, he was determined to prove him wrong. "I told him I'd walk into his office one day and do a somersault, and he said that I wasn't being realistic. Well, that's someone telling me I can't do something, so three months later, I stood up in his office, took off my leg braces, and did a full somersault. It wasn't pretty, but I did it." (anchoragepress.com, 03 Nov 2011)

FUTURE PLANS
He wants to open a bed and breakfast lodging in Alaska, United States of America, as well as a place to host and inspire kids with impairments. (IPC, 10 Feb 2018; teamusa.org, 08 Mar 2017; ktuu.com, 18 Apr 2018)

OCCUPATION
He has worked as a radio DJ and host for Classic Country 100.9, a radio station in Wasilla, AK, United States of America. (Facebook profile, 19 Sep 2017)

OTHER ACTIVITIES
He volunteers as an athlete mentor for Classroom Champions, a non-profit organisation in the United States of America that supports students from underserved communities. (teamusa.org, 07 Mar 2018)

Results

Unit Date Rank
IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships (La Molina, Spain)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's Downhill Sitting Race 1 2013-02-20 9999
Men's Super-G Sitting Race 1 2013-02-21 25
Men's Slalom Sitting Race 1 2013-02-24 9999
Men's Super-Combined Sitting Race 1 2013-02-25 9999
Men's Giant Slalom Sitting Race 1 2013-02-26 9999
2015 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships Panorama (Panorama, Canada)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's Downhill Sitting Race 1 2015-03-04 6
Men's Super-G Sitting Race 1 2015-03-05 3
Men's Giant Slalom Sitting Race 1 2015-03-08 9999
2017 IPC Alpine skiing World Championships Tarvisio, ITA (Tarvisio, Italy)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's Downhill Sitting Race 1 2017-01-25 1
Men's Super-G Sitting Race 1 2017-01-26 3
Men's Super-Combined Sitting Race 1 2017-01-28 9999
Men's Giant Slalom Sitting Race 1 2017-01-30 2
Men's Slalom Sitting Race 1 2017-01-31 9999
Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games (Pyeongchang, South Korea)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's Downhill Sitting Final 2018-03-10 1
Men's Super-G Sitting Final 2018-03-11 2
Men's Super Combined Sitting Final 2018-03-13 7
Men's Giant Slalom Sitting Final 2018-03-14 9999
Kranjska Gora/Sella Nevea 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships (Kranjska Gora/Sella Nevea, Slovenia)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's Giant Slalom Sitting Race 1 2019-01-21 6
Men's Slalom Sitting Race 1 2019-01-23 9999
Men's Downhill Sitting Race 1 2019-01-30 9999
Men's Super-G Sitting Race 1 (from SC) 2019-01-31 9999
Men's Super-Combined Sitting Race 1 2019-01-31 9999