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.
Further personal information
Sport specific information
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|