Alaskan skiers made their mark in the recently concluded PyeongChang Winter Olympics – including Sadie Bjornsen, who we profiled in our January issue – and one of the highlights included Olympic veteran Kikkan Randall teaming up to win Team USA’s first-ever cross-country skiing gold medal along with Jessie Diggins in the women’s team sprint freestyle.
After the PyeongChang Winter games wrapped up two Sundays ago, the same South Korean city hosted the ongoing Paralympic Games, and another Alaskan – who just happens to be a passionate outdoorsman – made his mark. Palmer’s Andrew Kurka has won two medals, a gold in the downhill and a silver in the super-G (check out his medal ceremony in this link.
Here’s more in a press release from Team USA:
After a heartbreaking crash in a training run in Sochi in 2014, Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Alaska) returned victoriously to win gold in the men’s sitting downhill on the first day of the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. The U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team garnered two medals as Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Massachusetts) also brought home bronze.
The eighth skier to compete, Kurka stormed to a dominant lead and held off a competitive field of more than 25 athletes for his first Paralympic medal. Kurka’s time of 1:24.11 bested runner-up and four-time Paralympic medalist Taiki Morii of Japan by more than a second and a half. This was his largest margin of victory ever in a downhill race.
Andrew Kurka – gold
“To be a champion in the Paralympic Games is the greatest honor I could ask for.”
“The fact that I came out here and I put down the very first Paralympic medal for Alaska, my home state, and the fact that it’s gold, to me is a fantastic feeling.”
On his success after Sochi…
“This right here is redemption. I wouldn’t change Sochi. I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened throughout my life. It’s all a journey and this is my journey to gold.”
Judging by his social media posts, Kurka is also quite the Alaska sportsman! Congrats, Andrew!