Andrew Kurka Reflects On His Journey 100 Days Out From PyeongChang

By Andrew Kurka, 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Champion | Nov. 29, 2017, 2:04 p.m. (ET)

Thinking back to it all – from when my journey as an athlete first began – I never expected to be where I am today. I could’ve only hoped and dreamed.


 

When I was 8 years old, my dream first began. It was on the wrestling mat after winning my first state title. My coach said, the words that would start it all, “Remember, there will always be someone better.” I knew for a fact, at that moment, I wanted to be the best. That’s where my Olympic dream grew. Once you win that gold medal on the Olympic stage, you are the best. From then on, every moment was a dedication to bettering myself, and my Olympic wrestling dream grew with great successes and many failures.

 

That is, until the day in 2005 when an ATV accident during a fishing trip broke my back and paralyzed me. At 13 years old, this moment was the definition of fear and hopelessness. Looking back on it now, that accident has defined me and shaped the person I am today – in so many good ways. The process of recovery from an injury was difficult. There were trials and tribulations, especially as a 13-year-old. I didn’t know where to go next or where this would lead me. Nevertheless, after work, focus and a family that stood behind me, I started walking again at the age of 15. This was when my world opened and possibilities started to flow. I became the Miracle Child for the Children’s Miracle Network. I traveled and spoke to many young children with uncertain futures. Each of them helped me to realize my own potential. That is when everything started to turn around. Two years from the date of my injury, I realized I could live just as much – if not more – than most people. I would live life in a different way, and there was nothing wrong with that.




This is when I realized pursuing my dreams was still possible, just in a different way. I had a physical therapist who took me mono-skiing for the first time when I was 15 years old. It brought back the dreams I had as a young child. I realized it was entirely possible to be a Paralympic champion. Ten years since I first got on the snow, I am now 25, a world champion and overall globe winner. Though I’m ranked #1 in the world, I am still pursuing that one thing that seems to elude me: a Paralympic medal. 

 

There have been broken bones, and trials through the years – breaking my back at the Sochi Winter Games and breaking my femur in Aspen – to name a few. But through it all, I learned more about myself. I can make a difference. I can share my story and impact the lives of others. I’ve concluded that everything that was happening to me could be for a reason, only if I decided to make it that way. That is what keeps me going as an athlete. Not the fact that I have always wanted to be the best. But by successfully completing this dream, I might just be able to make a difference. Bring the power of the human spirit to life and show others what they are truly capable of. That whatever trials they face in life, they can get through it. It just might take a change of perspective.




Looking back on the 
years and the times I have had – good, bad and indifferent – it makes me smile. When I sit and contemplate on the present, with the hours of training as a team across the world, it makes me excited. I’m overjoyed thinking of what the future holds and how the training will pay off. Having just finished an extensive power training program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, we now look ahead to the world cup circuit, as well as the PyeongChang Winter Games in 100 days.

 

I am looking forward to a great year, and deep down I know this will be a great season. If I’m lucky I might just accomplish all my dreams.