Andrew Kurka makes his Paralympic debut in PyeongChang in Alpine skiing’s downhill – sitting event, where he is the reigning world championships gold medalist. He also has a silver world championships medal in the giant slalom and a bronze in the super-G.
But his preparation for PyeongChang was a little unconventional. He spends his summers as a country music DJ in rural Alaska, where he grew up.
“Country music is where I got my first job,” Kurka recently told media in PyeongChang. “Summertime, whenever they call me in, I am there. I used to have my own show but skiing has taken over a lot of my life. My favorite artist? That’s a tough one, probably the legend George Strait. If you have got one man with over 60 No.1 hits, he is the man.”
And most famously, he was recently featured in a story on Cosmopolitan’s website discussing the rumored nightlife scene in the Athletes’ Villages. True to the line of questioning, Kurka was shirtless in his part of the video.
He summed up that experience as “awesome” but still “embarrassing.”
When he has free time, Kurka spends it fishing, hunting, cycling and spending time with his family. He also enjoys bodybuilding and wrestling.
The 26-year-old sit-skier actually started off his athletic career as a wrestler. He eventually won six Alaskan state wrestling titles, two of which came after an ATV accident in which he damaged several vertebrae.
“They (the doctors) told me it would be near impossible, that I wouldn’t be able to walk again, and I told them I was going to come back and do a somersault in the office and I did,” he said. “I won two (Alaskan state championship titles) after I broke my back, wrestling against able-bodied opponents.
“It was tough on the body, I had to make up for a lot of what I was lacking in my lower legs with my strategy and with my upper body strength.
“I was wrestling (at weight class) 120 pounds. You imagine someone going out with skinny legs that don't work and you get another 120-pounder coming to meet you.”
Kurka was set to make his Paralympic debut four years ago in Sochi, but he crashed on training run and broke his back. He did not compete in Sochi.
Of his training runs in PyeongChang, Kurka said, “I didn’t go so hard, I took it step by step. I was like, ‘I don't need to go gung-ho, I am just going to race from top to bottom.’”
Kurka also joked that if he wins gold, he wants to make a motivational video for YouTube – but he’ll keep his shirt on.