Sullivan Honors Alaskan of the Week: Andrew Kurka

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) this week spoke on the Senate floor in recognition of Andrew Kurka of Palmer, a world-class Alaskan Paralympic skier who recently won his first World Championship at a race in Tarvisio, Italy. Kurka was recognized as part of Senator Sullivan’s series, “Alaskan of the Week.”

The following is the statement submitted to the Congressional Record:


Mr. President, in the last few weeks I have come to the floor to recognize an exceptional Alaskan--someone who spends time giving back to our community by sharing their time and talents up north. There are thousands of these people, of course, in my great State, and I would love to recognize every single one of them. They do so much for all of us.

We Senators are not humble about our States. I certainly believe my State is the most beautiful place in America. It is probably the most beautiful place in the world. I ask anyone who is watching to come visit us, you will love it--guaranteed.

It is the people that make my State so special--kind, generous people, full of rugged determination, full of patriotism, full of compassion. Many of them are willing to go the extra mile, literally, in some of the most difficult terrain and extreme conditions of the world to help friends and neighbors and use their strength and skills to inspire us all.

I wish to tell you a little bit about Andrew Kurka, an extraordinary Alaskan from Palmer, which is a beautiful community about 45 miles outside of Anchorage. In his younger years, Andrew was a wrestler. He put his heart into it. For his efforts, he was very successful. He was a six-time Alaska State champion in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

When he was 13, he suffered a spinal cord injury in a four-wheeler accident. His physical therapist urged him to keep going, to keep trying, to stay active, and actually paid for his first skiing lesson with a group called Challenge Alaska, a nonprofit Paralympic sports club.

According to an article in the Alaska Dispatch News, Andrew is ``willing to give just about anything a try--bodybuilding, water-skiing, ultra-marathon, handcycling.'' He even raced in the Arctic Man ski and snow machine race in Alaska--a race that is not for the faint of heart. It is one tough race.

It is in sit skiing where he truly excels. He has been a longtime member of the U.S. Paralympic team and has won numerous medals. Just last month, he won three medals, including the Gold for the men's downhill race at the World Para Alpine Championships in Italy--the Gold for the whole world.

His accomplishments are amazing enough, but his willingness to serve and be a role model for others is what makes him a true Alaska treasure. He is involved in numerous organizations for great causes, and he travels all across Alaska and the country, visiting with children with medical problems and urging them to dream big the way he has.

“I have spent my life hoping to be an example to others,” Andrew said. “Having the chance and being put in a position where I can make a difference means the world to me.” That is Andrew.

For his determination against all odds, for his accomplishments, for his compassion, and for making the United States and Alaska proud last month in Italy at the World Para Alpine Championships, Andrew Kurka is this week's Alaskan of the Week.

Congratulations, Andrew, from all of your supporters. You are a great inspiration to all of us.

I yield the floor.