No. 12 Amy Purdy raises profile of para-sport in USA

Paralympic bronze medallist Amy Purdy shot to fame in the USA in 2014, creating more awareness for the Paralympic Movement – an achievement marked in the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2014. 20 Dec 2014 By IPC

It is hard to say all of Amy Purdy’s achievements for 2014 in one breath. The 35-year-old American won bronze in Sochi in the new sport of para-snowboard, went on to finish second in the popular TV show Dancing with the Stars, was photographed naked for ESPN’s Body Issue magazine and went on a speaking tour with US talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

Oh, and did we mention that her memoir is coming out before the end of the year?

“I worked harder than I ever have in my entire life and also accomplished more than ever as well,” she quipped. “It’s amazing how that works!”

The effect has helped to raise the profile of Paralympic sport to new heights in the USA, making it to the IPC’s No. 12 moment of 2014.

“Of course I have people coming up to me on the streets who recognise me from Dancing with the Stars, but I also have people who will recognise me as a Paralympic snowboarder.

“It always makes me proud when that happens.

“Just the other day a man walked up to me and said, ‘I loved….’ (I expected him to say ‘I loved you on DWTS’) but instead he said, ‘I loved watching you race in Sochi, you are an incredible athlete!’”

Not disabled

Purdy has an incredible drive – an attitude that does not accept the “mind-set” of disability and is determined to keep challenging herself on a daily basis.

“From the beginning, ever since I lost my legs, I never wanted to limit myself. I have gone on a mission to see what the possibilities are and have achieved even more then I could have ever imagined.

“To be disabled means you lack in ability… I have learned that there is no lack of ability in the Paralympic world!”

Purdy has become a household name in the US this year, which has been so non-stop that she has hardly slept in her own bed, or driven her own car.

A few weeks after her bronze-medal performance in Sochi, she joined the TV show Dancing with the Stars, where contestants had to learn and perform a different dance each week and face the public vote – no easy task for someone with two prostheses that were never designed for dancing.

“It felt like a Paralympic race each and every week,” she said.

“The amount of pressure I felt to learn how to dance, memorise the moves in just a few days and perform it live beautifully and gracefully in front of judges, a studio audience and millions of viewers was intense.

“With the Paralympics, I had years to build on the same skill set; at Dancing with the Stars every week we had to start over fresh.”

Baring all

With her body at its peak in terms of strength, Purdy did not hesitate to bare all in ESPN’s Body Issue magazine, which features athletes in nude or semi-nude photographs.

“I grew up respecting my body, and actually I have grown to respect it that much more after losing my legs and after all the surgeries I have had because it showed me how strong it was.

“My main point of doing the shoot was … to celebrate the body that got me to where I am today. Celebrate the strength and the scars.

“The human body is an incredible machine.”

From September, she was invited on Oprah Winfrey’s "Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend" – an eight-city arena tour – for three months, where she appeared on stage for Toyota’s “Standing O-Vation,” which recognised extraordinary people in US communities.

“During the tour itself my main message was all about the power of visualising and the idea that if you can see it, if you can believe it, then you can achieve it.

“No matter what our circumstances, nearly anything is possible if you are willing to work hard enough for it!”

For Purdy, joining the tour was a tough decision because it clashed with training and competing in para-snowboard. Despite being selected for the US team this season, she has decided to take a step back from training for now. But she will not rule out making an appearance at the 2015 World Championships in La Molina, Spain, and she still has her eyes on the next prize.

“As of now my plan is to compete in 2018, especially with our new banked slalom discipline! I want to continue to push myself!”

For more information, visit the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2014 page.

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