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From Army Reserve Captain to American Tarzan Competitor

By Staff Sgt. Andrea Merritt | Army Reserve Medical Command | July 26, 2016

July 25, 2016 — FORT SHERIDAN, Illinois -- If asked to imagine the average 40-year old American woman, would the image of a woman racing through the jungles of a remote island, jumping off cliffs and swinging through trees come to mind?

If the answer is no, then meeting a woman like Kim Liszka, a 42-year old emergency room nurse from Macungie, Pennsylvania, would prove to be anything but average.

Liszka was one of seven challengers to brave the inhospitable terrain and grueling obstacles on the Caribbean island of Dominica in the new survival competition series, American Tarzan, which aired July 6, 2016 on the Discovery Channel.

“I heard about the show by looking online for adventure races and this show happened to catch my eye because it said it was primitive and adventurous,” Liszka said. “That screamed me because I belong in the jungle.”

Throughout her life, Liszka excelled as an athlete and even earned the title of “Second Fittest Female in the Nation.” 

In high school, she won numerous track and field meets and as an adult, she continued to race and became the first of only two athletes to finish the Skulls Challenge -- a 26 mile run with over 70 obstacles, a half mile swim and a 5,600 elevation gain.

While in college, she challenged herself further by joining the Army Reserve, serving as a combat medic and a flight nurse during her 14-year military career.

During her service, others took notice of her astounding athletic abilities. A General officer once selected her for the United States Armed Forces Pentathlon team, but she declined the opportunity as she was a single mother at the time and wanted to focus on raising her son, Jace.

“We loved her story because not only is she tough, but she’s a single mother who devoted her life to raising her son,” said Matt Sharp, executive producer of Sharp Entertainment. “Once he was grown up and out of the house, Kim had a great desire to reboot her life around the passion for extreme adventure and American Tarzan was the ultimate challenge.”

Since the show aired, millions of viewers have witnessed Liszka’s competitive drive and indomitable spirit in action on the unforgiving island.

In the first episode, the former Army Reserve captain impressively finished the first leg of the race even after getting stung by a swarm of bees.

“I really didn't feel any of the effects until later because I was still in a fight or flight mode and the adrenaline was pumping through my body,” Liszka explained. “Once I made it to survival camp the symptoms set in. I was tired, my body was burning, I was nauseous and had diarrhea. It was not a good night.”

The island tested her resolve, but despite the obstacles thrown at her, she refused to quit.

In addition to the bee stings, Liszka faced the threat of hypothermia while on the show and furthermore she pushed herself to complete a climbing obstacle shortly after ripping the skin from her fingertips on a 7-foot vine jump.

“What kept me going was just digging deep, thinking about my son, thinking about him overcoming his own obstacles and I didn’t want him to see me fail,” Liszka said. 

Along with her never-quit attitude, Liszka credits her military training for getting her through many of the challenges she faced on the show such as rappelling, climbing, and swimming.

“The military helped me so much during this challenge,” Liszka said. “Obviously in the survival aspect with building shelter and fire, but more so in the athletic aspect because I really needed to do strategic planning in order to maneuver across the terrain and successfully complete obstacles.”

So far, Liszka is one of four competitors left standing on the show. She has outlasted three men -- a competitive Strongman, a timbersports champion, and an ultra marathon runner -- to get closer to the coveted title of American Tarzan.

It seems she may just have what it takes to conquer the island, but only time will truly tell.

“It would mean the world to me if I was named American Tarzan. I have never experienced anything that has mentally and physically fatigued me like this competition … to be named the first American Tarzan would be amazing, especially against these world-class athletes and survivalists,” Liszka stated.

Liszka can’t reveal much about what happens on the show until the episodes air, so audiences will have to tune in to the Discovery Channel, Wednesday nights at 10/9 C to find out exactly who will be crowned the first American Tarzan. The finale airs July 27.