“You’re telling me that man broke my neck with a pool stick?!” I asked as the doctor showed me the x-ray of my fractured Spinous Process “floating” off my T1 vertebrae.
“Unfortunately, that seems to be the case,” the doctor regretfully went on to explain…
My first thought was that I wouldn’t be able to race that upcoming winter. I am an amputee ski racer and had just come off a Paralympic year in Sochi where I was just shy of qualifying for the US Ski Team. Although I hadn’t qualified, I was still more determined than ever as I had just learn to ski three short years earlier.
I was born with a condition where my right leg was underdeveloped, so they had to amputate when I was 2. I had a very normal childhood though and grew up playing all kinds of sports including football, basketball, rowing in college climbing, etc…however, I never skied until I was 25. My lack of a leg never really held me back and actually am quite thankful for it now as I believe that I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I have had if I was “normal”. I always played it down and it was never that big of a deal. Violence, however, was a real game changer.
It was summer of 2014. I was working in Denver as a bartender to scrape up enough to pay for my season’s annual dues. I had bartended and managed restaurants for years prior to finding ski racing and was fairly successful at that, but as soon as I had discovered adaptive sports and the Paralympics, my full focus turned to ski racing as I believed I could compete in athletics again. I was in the best shape of my life and had no intention of slowing down. I felt like a super hero.
That was until a Saturday night in late June night when I went to work. It was the middle of my shift, about 11pm, when a group of suspicious looking people (about 7 of them) came in to the bar and were visibly intoxicated. I was taking a break, sitting at the bar eating a late dinner as we had been busy, when my co-worker came up to me in a panic as the group had gotten disgruntled that we wouldn’t serve them any alcohol. The “leader” of the group came over to me to argue about the dilemma and I politely asked them to leave. The next moment, I felt a shoulder in my back as one of the men in the group tackled us. They started hitting us with whatever they had; belt buckles, pool sticks, fists, purses, bar stools, you name it...
We scrambled up to our feet and fell down again as the floor had gotten saturated with broken beer bottles and was extremely slippery. I managed to finally get up and, dodging blows, I started running outside, cell phone in hand with the police, and as I passed through the front door, I felt a huge slap in my neck. The pain was intense but I was still on my feet. I clenched my fist around my phone and turned around to see a middle-aged man holding a pool cue with an evil look in his eyes. I was so shocked that it was someone who was easily old enough to be my father that I didn’t swing. I wanted to but I just stood there for what felt like minutes but it was probably just a second or two, looking at him. I could hear sirens coming up the street and I as I turned to look for my co-worker Donivan, I saw him dive at the man’s feet as he was trying to run away from the police. The man’s shoe came off in Donivan’s hands and he ran, cowardly, off into the parking lot and jumped into their truck that was already escaping. I tried to get a glimpse of the license plate but it was too late. The cops screeched up to the front door and got out and chased one of the men on foot. He got sent off to jail but was released the next day for some sketchy reason. The paramedics showed up shortly after the police that night, examined my neck, and said that they didn’t see anything besides probably just a bruise and I actually went back to work and shockingly finished my shift until 3am.
The next day however, it was extremely painful and I couldn’t bare it any longer, I left work and called the Workman’s Comp doctor and of coarse, they were closed. I didn’t get in to see someone until 2 days later where I learned that he had fractured my neck. What may be even more shocking is that they put me in a neck brace, AND SENT ME BACK TO WORK! After one day, I wasn’t having it anymore as I had tripped several times trying to maneuver without being able to see the ground in front of me. A bar is not a place for a one legged man to blindly navigate around with a fractured neck, but that;s only my humble opinion.
The police only caught one of them that night and afterwards, not only were they of no assistance, they were actually quite rude. One detective stated and I quote “Well what do you want us to do? We can’t just go around breaking fingers for information."
After 3 months frustration of dealing with by far the worst doctors and facilities I have ever seen, they sent me back to work with weight restrictions and I started a PT regimen. It wasn’t even a month later that I learned that the same group came back into the bar looking to “talk with whoever was suing them.” Donovan was working and immediately called the cops, then called me.
I still had no idea who ANY of them were, let alone know who to sue. I have quite a significant limp on my right side, I always wear shorts, and I never hide the fact that I have one leg. I am noticeable in a crowd to say the least. I had to leave.
I moved up to Big Sky, Montana to be with my girlfriend Casey, and being an avid outdoorsman and Big Sky just made sense.
I have now been living up here almost a year and I skied as soon as the doctors would allow last season. With the technical skill required to ski up here, I believe I am the better skiing shape than I was prior to Sochi. Some say things happen for a reason and maybe one day, I can look at this whole thing as a positive.
As for right now, I am trying to get my life back.
I have more drive than ever to succeed in ski racing and qualify for the US Ski Team, and I WILL bring home gold medals in the next Paralympics for our USA!
However, I am back at stage 1 as far as my equipment and funding go. I am need of legal race skis as the FIS changed the radius requirements in the year that I was injured and all my skis are ineligible for competition. I also need funding to train in Winter Park, the home of the National Sports Center for the Disabled, as well as travel and lodging expenses throughout the year at the required races. Unfortunately, one could be the best racer in the world, but you have to be able to show up to the events to get the required points. My budget outlook this year is looking to be around $15,000 if I am to compete in the necessary events.
I am reaching out for sponsors in hopes of finding support for my journey to the next Paralympics. I am eager and willing to work hard for any company who is willing to back me. I have been public speaking since 2012, presenting information on the Paralympics , my story, and adaptive sports in the form of team building exercises, conventions, etc… I would be honored to work with a company in this regard in exchange for financial backing.
I am also currently in the process of obtaining a new prosthetic leg as mine broke due to some weight gain from the injury BUT insurance is supposed to come through soon and I can’t be more excited! Being on crutches has been horrible on my neck and has also been a real eye-opener to how much I enjoy being bi-pedal!
Hey y'all! Thank you for your awesome support!
Please check out this video I made yesterday and help share if you can! I have a race starting this weekend and need to pay for it before I can enter a start! Yikes!
Thank you everyone and Happy Holidays!
Thank you everyone for awesome support! I am up here training hard and have my next race in Copper starting on the 6th of December so if you are in Colorado and want to see how we do it, please come check out our races!! We would love to have you and I would be stoked to ski with you! I unfortunately still have to pay for these races before I can compete so if you could please help me spread the word of this fundraiser, I would be oh so grateful!!! :) thank you all for your awesomeness and continued support!
Cheers and happy shredding!
I need to have this 1st bill paid by November 1st... YIKES! This is my team dues for this season and the expenses for my first race November 20th.
Please help if you can, and spread the word by sharing with your friends. I'm so ready physically and am in the best shape of my life! I know I can do this, but I can't come up with the funds on my own as this is only the first bill of the season. :/
Thank you all for you generosity and efforts, they are greatly appreciated!
Thank you all for your awesome continued support! I know that I can make it to the top and if you believe in me too, please help spread the word so I can continue on my journey to the Paralympics and represent USA! :)
Did some climbing yesterday for cross training! I love Nature's free gym! Ski racing however...is not free. :(
Please help spread the word of my fundraiser so I can continue on my journey of competing in the Paralympics! Thank you everyone, much love.
Hi Everyone! So I just received part of my bill for my team dues this year. If I can pay it ($4000) by November 1st, then I can save $400 and put that towards skis! Please help me spread the word! Love y'all!
Howdy! Thank you everyone for your awesome words of encouragement and support! If you could please help me spread the word about my fundraiser for this season's costs on GoFundMe, I would be extremely grateful! I will continue to update with training vids and photos...OH and I'm hitting Mt. Hood in a few weeks so I'll be on SNOW! :)
Dear Friends, Family, Supporters and even those of you that I have never met,
My name is Mark Urich and I am an amputee ski racer from Denver, CO. I race all 5 alpine events and I ski using a technique called "3-tracking." I was born with a condition where my right leg was underdeveloped which led to an amputation above the knee to better fit a prosthetic when I was 2.
I called it my "robot leg." :)
Since around that age, I have always been competitive and truly tried (and loved) every sport out there from rock climbing to football. (Full Bio Here) But then in November of 2010, a friend of mine got me to try skiing. The moment I clicked into the ski, I was hooked. This was it. I found MY sport. My true passion. This was the first "adaptive" sport I had tried and instantly fell in love. I immediately entered into a race camp and from that moment I knew my dream and what I wanted out of life.
I now race for the National Sports Center for the Disabled and hope to make the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team early this season. My dream is to bring home a gold medal for the United States and proudly represent our great nation at the highest level of athletic competition, the Paralympic Games.
However, in the summer of 2014, my dream of the Paralympics and my training were suddenly put on hold. I was working in Denver as a bartender to pay off the last season of dues and training fees when a shady group came in and looked visibly intoxicated. It was late and we knew they were trouble. They became angry when we didn't serve them and they attacked us, hitting us with whatever they had, from belt buckles to bar stools. I finally managed to get up and head for the door, phone in hand with the police, when I felt an extremely painful sting on my neck, right in the center of my spine. I turned around, fists clenched, only to see a man who was old enough to be my father standing there holding a bent pool stick. I was so shocked that I didn't strike him back. He cowardly ran away and jumped into their escaping truck just as the cops screeched into the parking lot. The police only caught one of the men that night, but he was released the day after. Not only did police do nothing about my case afterwards, they were actually rude, disclaiming that "we can't just go around breaking fingers for information."
The paramedics examined my neck that night and evaluated the feeling in my hands. I was so full of adrenaline that nothing really hurt that night, I even finished that shift until 3a.m. for whatever dumb reason. The next day however, the pain was excruciating and my fingers were going numb.
It took workman's comp doctors 3 days to see me, but eventually I found out that that man broke my neck with the pool stick. He fractured the spinous process completely off of my T1 vertbebrae. They put me in a neck brace, and actually sent me back to work right away. Not being able to see the ground in front of me and wearing prosthetic up to my hip, I obviously tripped all over the place as someone would... I struggled to get them to let me just try and heal from home as they didn't know how to interact with a worker who was already previously "disabled." I believe they did more harm than good.
Three months later when I returned to work, I learned that the same group came in looking to talk to "whoever was suing them..." I never even knew who they were.
I felt like I had a target on my back in my home town. I walk with a pretty significant limp, I always wear shorts, and I don't hide the fact that I have one leg. I stand out in a crowd, to say the least.
So I had to leave. I moved up with my girlfriend Casey to Big Sky, Montana, where I would wish anyone who has vengeance with me good luck, as the locals up here are tougher than grizzly bears. :)
As for right now, I am trying to get my life back. I want to train and race again. I want to show people that you can do whatever you want in this life if you want it bad enough, even if major obstacles are thrown your way. The more sour the lemons, the sweeter the lemonade. Ha! That is my new mantra...
I now have more determination than ever to succeed in ski racing and qualify for the US Ski Team, and I WILL bring home gold medals in the next Paralympics for our US of A.
However, I am back at stage 1 as far as my equipment and funding go. I am need of legal race skis as the FIS changed the radius requirements in the year that I was injured and all my skis are ineligible for competition. I also need funding to train in Winter Park, the home of the National Sports Center for the Disabled, as well as travel and lodging expenses throughout the year at the required races. Unfortunately, one could be the best racer in the world, but you have to be able to show up to the events to get the required points to make the team. My current budget outlook this year is looking to be around $15,000 (I put $25,000 in hopes of not having to fundraise next year...) if I am to compete in the necessary events and frankly right now, that amount seems astronomically out of reach if I try to do it alone.
If you believe in me and what I am doing to accomplish my dream, and you have the means, I would sincerely appreciate any assistance you can give. Every little bit counts and it all adds up quickly!
If you'd like to help out but financially are unable to do so, you can still help me spread the word and hopefully we can reach enough kind hearts out there to help me succeed in my goal.
I want to thank you all for your time in reading my story and I sincerely appreciate any and all assistance!