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Amy Purdy snowboards down memory lane with ‘journalist’ Andrew Parsons

‘Tokyo2020 postponement may seem like a disappointment now but later when you are into a race, you are going to be so ready for it’ 29 Apr 2020
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a female with prosthetic legs being raised into the air holding onto a robot arm
CROWNING GLORY: Amy Purdy performing with KUKA, the robot, durning the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony.
ⒸSimon Bruty | OIS
By ND Prashant | The IPC

Andrew Parsons decided to step out and venture during lockdown – ‘not literally’, but out of the IPC President’s shoes into that of a journalist.

At a time when the world is battling against the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for inspiration, Parsons shed light on the remarkable journey of the Paralympian, author and motivational speaker Amy Purdy.

The virtual chat on @Paralympics’ Instagram page was a curtain-raiser for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Opening Ceremony replay on the IPC’s social media channels for sports enthusiasts starved for action.

Purdy, who lost both her legs at 19, had set the stage on fire at the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony with her electrifying performance; dancing with KUKA, the robot to the tunes of the renowned Brazilian musician Sérgio Mendes.

“I miss Brazil, I loved everything in Brazil. I had so much fun then. I spent 20 days learning how to dance with KUKA. Honestly, I was terrified initially about performing with a robot. But then decided to just step up and get out of my comfort zone,” recalled the 2014 Paralympic bronze and 2018 Paralympic silver medallist, who had joined in from Colorado, USA.

Purdy suffered bacterial meningitis infection that led to septic shock and both of her legs had to be amputated below the knee.

“It was a long journey and it was scary at times. Of course, I had no idea where it was going to lead me.

“Lost blood circulation to both my legs and kidneys and then had a kidney transplant. Lost hearing in my left ear and had no idea of what I would do,” said Purdy. Her father Stef gave her a new lease of life by donating one of his kidneys, which she acknowledges as the one of the ‘amazing gifts’ she could ever get.

SPEAKING THEIR MIND: IPC Presdient Andrew Parsons and Amy Purdy during the live Instagram chat.

Fighting spirit

For the passionate snowboarder, getting back into action was still a far cry. The only thing that didn’t change since her surgery was, she had the same spirit towards the goals that she had set before.

“It was just about visualising what I wanted to be before. I saw myself snowboarding again so strongly. I could feel the adrenaline pump up and my heart beating faster, when I thought about it,” said the 40-year-old, whose biggest challenge was getting the ‘right kind of feet’ on the snowboard. 

The initial challenge was about finding prosthetic legs to help her snowboard. She would try putting together parts and fix them to the board using duct tape 

“For me, it has been always about figuring ways on how to do things that I love. All those little secrets that worked for me and helped me to step me into my best self; I kind of naturally wanted other people to do the same,” said Purdy. 

She co-founded the Adaptive Action Sports with her husband Daniel Gale, to groom aspiring Para athletes, and it is already paying dividends. Eight off the 13 US snowboarders who competed in the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games were from Purdy’s organisation; six ended up on the podium.

Making the most

Like most, Purdy has had her calendar in disarray due to the COVID-19 lockdown. But she wants to seize this time to re-assess herself.

“It is a good time to feel inward. Who I am and what am I doing? What impact do I want to make in the community? As a motivational speaker, I had 10 speeches between March and April cancelled overnight. This made me rethink the way I’m approaching things.

“I decided I want to bring more value to my community. I’m working on a programme for high school students who are graduating, on how students can see through the challenges of entering the ‘real world.’ I’m starting to write another book as well.”

For athletes disappointed with the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Purdy’s advise was to see it as an opportunity to excel.

“Personally, I would have loved something like this when I was heading into Sochi, I would have been like ‘Oh God! I got more time to become the best athlete’.

“It is about how you can use this challenge to get even further ahead. So, keep training and keep working on being your absolute best. It may seem like a disappointment now but later when you are into a race, you are going to be so ready for it. So, use that energy to be the best athlete that you can be.”