Sit-skier and U of S alumni Kurt Oatway

Golden boy

Kurt Oatway’s spinal cord accident did not limit him from pursuing his dreams. Today, he is a decorated Paralympian.

On Sunday March 11, Kurt Oatway (BSc'10) won a gold in men's sitting Super G at the Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea with a time of one minute 25.83 seconds, proving to himself and the world that hard work and perseverance pays off.

We caught up with Kurt before he left to South Korea to see how he gets ready for the world stage.

Born to ski

Oatway started ski racing at the age of five. Born in Alberta, spending weekends on the mountain just seemed like a natural fit.

In 2007, during his time as a geology student at the U of S, Kurt Oatway fell from a 12 metre rock and suffered a spinal cord injury.

His accident put him on the sidelines as he tried to adapt to a new way of living. However, witnessing the hype and the Canadian pride associated with the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 sparked something inside of Oatway—something that made him want to start skiing again.

His initial goal was to just get back on the hill, to have the wind on his face and to spend time on the mountain like he did when he was a kid. The Paralympics were not even on his radar.

“[I wanted the] freedom of being able to go out on the mountains. To ski as well as I used to, if not better than I used to,” said Oatway.

So he started slow, but it didn’t take long for the naturally athletic Oatway to get used to the sit-ski configurations. He soon stared getting recognized as a competent, confident skier. He represented Saskatchewan in the 2011 Canada Winter games and then qualified for the Sochi Olympics in 2014, where he says he didn’t have lofty expectations, but rather reveled in the experience.

“I was going for the experience of the games and to take all in,” he said. “I wanted to have fun and to ski.”  

Second time around

Four years ago, Oatway found himself celebrating the moment when he was in Sochi. This time around he says he is more focused and determined.

The 34-year-old landed in South Korea on Feb. 27 where he continued his regiment of dry-land training, organizing equipment and doing last minute repairs.

As race day approaches, knowing his biggest fans, his mom and dad, are in the stands cheering him on. Being a part of the larger Team Canada also helps Oatway compete at the Paralympic level.

His advice for other’s pursing their dreams? Make a plan for success and you’ll be surprised with the outcome.

“A lot of people who get injured will have a period of hardship in their life, sometimes you get down in a rut where you can’t do something,” he said. “Take things one day at a time. Have big aspirations, put the effort in, take risks sometimes. Eventually things will pay off.”

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