PUSHing forward | Film chronicles Korgan’s journey to South Pole

Grant Korgan, center, makes history as the first spinal cord-injured athlete to ski to the South Pole, reaching the South Pole on Jan. 17, 2012, on the 100th anniversary of the first expedition to the pole. Korgan made more than 250,000 strokes on his ski-ski to reach the South Pole. Assisting Korgan to stand for the last 100 feet of the journey are Tal Fletcher and Doug Stoup on this cover of Tahoe Weekly printed on Feb. 16, 2012. Photography by Keoki Flagg, GalleryKeoki.com.

In the first five minutes of talking to Grant Korgan— without even seeing the trailer of his new documentary — I could tell that no matter what has happened to him in the past or what is to come in the future, he is out to change the world.

“I had to show myself that I was able to succeed in a cold, harsh environment and give the world a powerful metaphor that you can achieve whatever it is you want in life regardless of your condition.” –Grant Korgan

In 2010, the Incline Village, Nev., native had everything going for him: a great career, a beautiful wife, great health and the Tahoe dream lifestyle. Then one day when Korgan was out making a movie in the Sierra Nevada back country, he overshot a jump on his snowmobile that left him with a life-altering, spinal-cord injury.

In the coming months, Korgan was determined that his adversity would not hold him back. Although his life was turned upside down, he quickly started his rehabilitation process with the support from his wife, Shawna, and the High Fives Foundation. Then in 2011, a year after his accident, High Fives founder Roy Tuscany called Korgan and asked if he wanted to go to the South Pole.

Grant Korgan was the first person to sit-ski to the South Pole in 2012. | Courtesy “The Push”

Of course he did and he was not going to let being paralyzed get in the way of achieving a lifelong dream. Suddenly, he took on a new purpose and shifted his rehabilitation to training for a new challenge.

“I had to show myself that I was able to succeed in a cold, harsh environment and give the world a powerful metaphor that you can achieve whatever it is you want in life regardless of your condition,” he says.

Korgan took a year to physically prepare for the roughly 100-mile journey into the Antarctic. As the first person to attempt this on a sit-ski, he figured that at going 6 feet per stroke, he would have to complete 250,000 strokes to reach the South Pole. It ended up being closer to almost triple that.

Along with physical therapists, chiropractors and Pilates trainers, Korgan worked out at least 12 hours a day for a full year. He also took trips to subzero temperature places such as Norway, Alaska and Patagonia, to learn more about what he needed in regard to his team, gear, training and preparation for the big event.

In 12 days of 10-hour workouts on ice — he says it felt like PUSHing himself across a shag carpet in a laundry basket — and trying not to freeze to death in 40-degree F below temperatures, he reflected on his life and new reality.

“I thought about my wife, all of the medical help I received, my support structure and my family. The things that are real show themselves. I could feel people’s hearts beaming at me, all of these people we met around the globe, I could feel it. I was overwhelmed with love,” he says.

To keep moving forward, he would continually ask himself if he could go 10 more feet until he completed the 100 miles where Shawna was waiting to greet him.

By January 2012, Korgan was embarking on the trip of a lifetime with two seasoned explorers.

Grant Korgan was the first person to sit-ski to the South Pole in 2012. | Courtesy “The Push”

Now Grant, Tal Fletcher, Shawna and filmmaking team Brian Niles, Jeffrey Allard, Geoff Callan, Todd Berardi and others have just premiered “The PUSH,” his documentary about overcoming adversity with love and achieving the impossible.

In the couple of months since its release, “The PUSH” is already receiving rave reviews and winning awards, most notably it won the Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the 33rd Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

“We thought that the South Pole expedition was a journey to overcome adversity, but it was bigger than that. It was a beautiful journey about love,” Shawna says. “Complete strangers who knew nothing about us, they’re crying, laughing, they’re crying tears of joy. It’s really an emotive film that leaves people inspired.”

“The bigger goal here is to show people that we have this enduring human spirit. I wasn’t letting my injury stop me from reaching my potential. Telling this story is why we risked life and limb down in Antarctica,” Korgan says. “I want to give my complete gratitude to all of the people in my hometown of Incline Village, Lake Tahoe, Squaw, Reno, the Bay Area and beyond. The number of people all over who’ve blown our minds with encouragement, belief, support and cheering is heart melting. I have a humbled appreciation. I’m just so darn grateful to experience what we’re experiencing.”

For more information about “The PUSH,” visit thepushison.com. Local showings will be announced as details become available.