Paralympic Winter Games
7-16 March

Amy Purdy flies from Sochi 2014 to Dancing with the Stars

Within the span of four days, the American went from winning snowboard bronze to being on reality TV. 18 Mar 2014
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Amy Purdy

Amy Purdy won bronze in the debut of snowboard cross at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

ⒸGetty Images
By Justin A. Rice | For the IPC

“There’s a lot of attention that has come in with Dancing from the Stars already so I think it will bring in more attention.”

After flying back to the USA to perform on Dancing with the Stars on Monday night (17 March) after winning a bronze medal in the debut of snowboard cross at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, Amy Purdy could hardly stand.

Literally.

The 34-year-old US Paralympic snowboarder posted a picture to Instagram of her dance partner, Derek Hough, carrying her on his back through the press line after the season premier of the ABC dance show.

“This pretty much sums up how I feel after winning a bronze medal at the Paralympic Games in Sochi on Friday traveling 24 hours and doing the cha cha with @derekhough on Monday!” she posted on Instagram after the show's season premiere.

“Holy Cow! #zzzzzzzz#DWTS @dancingabc."

Memorizing all the twists and turns of the first-ever snowboard cross course in the Paralympics was hard enough for Purdy without having to maintain dance moves crammed in the back of her head as well.

But after navigating the 140-metre snowboard cross course at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre that was rock hard for the first runs and slushy by the third pass, Purdy won bronze behind France’s silver medallist Hernandez Cervellon and gold medallist Bibian Mentel-Spee of the Netherlands.

“So I had a lot of memorizing to do this week and just jumping into it,” Purdy said with an American flag draped over her shoulders at the bottom of the slope on Friday. “I’m going to be jet lagged. I’m flying out and just doing it like that."

After performing the Cha Cha Cha in special prosthetic legs and a gold and silver sparkling pants and top that exposed her washboard abs, Purdy received a score of 24 from the judges.

"I am in shock, I have never seen anything like that ... you are a beacon of light," judge Carrie Ann Inaba said on the show.

Purdy practiced with Hough in the Paralympic Village in the mountains overshadowing Sochi for about a week-and-a-half before competing in snowboarding.

“We just had a couple days in Sochi [to dance] while I was also preparing for our race so I mean I doubled up on stuff but it’s exciting to have something to go into after the Paralympics,” Purdy said.

The model, actress and motivational speaker who has been in a Madonna video and given a TED talk was an able-bodied snowboarder before she lost both of her legs below the knee to bacterial meningitis when she was 19.

Her teammates on the men's US Paralympic snowboarding team (Evan Strong, MikeShea and Keith Gabel) took gold, silver and bronze in the men’s snowboard cross, and Purdy had a hard time believing her dream had finally come to fruition.

“It’s crazy, it’s like it happened instead of this anxiety leading up to it,” she said after the race. “Just really exciting it’s crazy this is my first Paralympics and it was all just kind of mental strategy of how to prepare for the day.”

For the first time ever, NBC and NBCSN also broadcast 50 hours of coverage from the Paralympics, including the men’s sledge hockey gold medal victory against Russia on Saturday.

That, coupled with Purdy’s exposure from Dancing with the Stars could prove to be a watershed moment that vaults para-snowboarding, and the Paralympics in general, to the next level of popularity in the US.

“I think it already has,” Purdy said after winning her bronze. “There’s a lot of attention that has come in with Dancing from the Stars already so I think it will bring in more attention.”