Pyeongchang Paralympics a 'golden ticket' for Alberta skier Kirk Schornstein

For Edmonton paralympian Kirk Schornstein, his strongest motivation comes from the word "no."

'It's kind of like winning the golden ticket in a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory kind of scenario'

Kirk Schornstein posted three top-30 finishes in Vancouver. (Courtesy Canadian Paralympic Committee)

Edmonton paralympian Kirk Schornstein finds his strongest motivation in the word "no."

"It's people telling me that I can't do it," Schornstein said Tuesday in describing his biggest motivation on the slopes.

"Whoever tells me I can't do it, I like to point my finger at them and say, 'You pay attention. In the next year to four years, you're going to see me in the headlines. I'm going to do what you told me I can't do.' "

Schornstein has been able to do plenty of finger pointing at his naysayers.
Kirk Schornstein (Kirk Schornstein/Twitter)

At 24, he is bound for the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang as a member of the Canadian para-alpine ski team, in what will be his third podium bid.

Schornstein has ranked in the top 15 in the world in five different alpine disciplines, and has little doubt he'll be able to reach the podium in March in South Korea.  

'I'm going to compete when it counts'

"It's going well," he said. "I'm right where I want to be, and I'm going to compete when it counts."

Schornstein, who lives in Spruce Grove and trains in Edmonton, began skiing on the relatively gentle slopes of Edmonton's Snow Valley park in grade school, and spent years competing against able-bodied competitors.

Having suffered a nerve injury at birth, Schornstein has Erb's palsy. His right arm is paralyzed.

I always wanted to challenge myself as much possible.- Kirk Schornstein

His disability never diminished his appetite for competition, but instead fuelled his desire to win.

"Aerodynamics is obviously important," Schornstein said in an interview. "And not being able to have that arm stay up in a tight position, I'm losing a few hundredths of second, which, in our sport is a lot of time.

"The challenge was huge but I always wanted to challenge myself as much possible.

"That was kind of my thing, telling myself that I could beat a lot of others who had the use of four limbs. The motivation was there for me and it still is today."

Schornstein began competing on the para circuit at 14.

By 17, he had competed in the 2011 International Paralympic Committee world championships with four top-15 finishes.

At the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, despite only one year's experience on the national team, he posted three top-30 finishes.

He also competed at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, where he posted top-15 finishes in super-G, super combined and giant slalom.

In January 2017, at the IPC world championships in Tarvisio, Italy, he captured silver in the downhill. He posted three other top-10 finishes, including fourth place in both the super-G and super combined.

On the World Cup circuit in the 2016-17 season, Schornstein posted 10 top-10 finishes. He said his athletic career has taught him a lot about gratitude, and his next trip down the slopes in South Korea will be no different.

He likens his Olympic bid to winning the lottery.

"It's kind of like winning the golden ticket in a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory kind of scenario," he said.

"It's a golden opportunity and you learn a lot, like how simple things can be when you work hard at it and you trust yourself.

"You also learn how lucky we are as Canadians to live where we are. I've seen some places in the world, and every time I come home I just appreciate where I am."