Local Paralympian Gets Ready for His Third Winter Games

Courtesy: Canadian Paralympic Committee

Kirk Schornstein, from Spruce Grove will be heading to Pyeongchang to compete in alpine skiing at the Paralympic Games.

A local skier is chasing podiums at the 2018 Paralympic Games in South Korea.

Kirk Schornstein grew up in the area skiing on the slopes of Snow Valley in Edmonton when he was eight years old. At the time Kirk was competing in able bodied programs despite being born with a brachial plexus injury which has caused paralysis in his right arm. He explains it was a struggle competing and he got last place a lot, but a famous Olympian helped him on a path which would eventually change his life.

As Schornstein explains it, "A man by the name of Ken Read as you know the 'Crazy Canuck' who is a downhill champion back in the day, he put in a good word, because he saw me skiing around Canmore and Banff, and he said it would be good to get me into the para-sport, so when I was 15, I went to Kimberley, B.C. to do my first para-race and I got my first podium on my first downhill race ever". After this Schornstein explains the development team for Team Canada took him in and tried to qualify him for the 2010 games. Schornstein just missed the mark, but due to a injury of another team member, he was able to step up and punch his ticket to Vancouver for his very first Paralympic Games.

After this, Schornstein began preparing for the next games in 2014 and after all the work put in disaster struck on the first run at Sochi. "My ski popped off and I crashed and partially tore my ACL" Schornstein says. 

Now, after two games, Schornstein is ready to head to Pyeongchang for Team Canada and make an impressive showing. As he explains, "We've been working hard the last four years to give it everything I got, I got a silver at last years World Championships, so the podium is looking pretty good for the Paralympics".

Coming into his third games, Schornstein is now one of the veterans on Team Canada and he says this experience has somewhat changed his outlook on competing. Schornstein says, "I always thought physical was the most important part of being an athlete and you learn it's not, sure it is important when you're younger, but now its 90% mentality and 10% physical, and that's where my advantage is". Coming into Pyeongchang, Schornstein feels he is prepared to handle the crowds, the cameras and most importantly the pressure of competing on the world stage.

Despite the experience, training has been no easy task for Schornstein who says the team trains for 11 months out of the year. Explaining his training regime, Schornstein says, "In the summer I was in Whistler for seven months training in the gym for three sessions a day so about six to eight hours in the gym, and when we get to Korea we have to be up at five in the morning and we get back to the hotel at 7 at night so we're out there all day".

Schornstein will be competing in all the alpine events, but says he find the downhill and slalom will give him the best chance at getting onto the podium.

Among all the training and the preparation to get to the Paralympic Games, Schornstein says its an incredible honour to don the maple leaf and compete for Team Canada. "There's a lot of feelings that go into it, a lot of happiness and a lot of pressure to, but also very proud to wear our colours, because I think one thing Canada has when we go to the Olympics or any other event, our colours stand out". Schornstein further explains in his travels he's learned everyone loves Canadians which is why the nation stands out so much and which is what makes him even more proud to wear the nations colours at the games.

The 2018 Paralympic Games begin on March 8th and Kirk, along with the rest of Team Canada will be shown on CBC throughout the duration.

To hear the full interview with Team Canada Paralympic Athlete Kirk Schornstein, click the player below.

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