By Mikah Coveli
Amy Purdy is no stranger to a challenge. The two-time Paralympian athlete has medaled in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, and she competed again this year at Pyeongchang, South Korea. At the age of 38, she performed on the popular television show Dancing With the Stars and made it to the finals before finishing as a runner-up behind Olympic ice dancer Meryl Davis. In 2005, she co-founded Adaptive Action Sports with her partner, Daniel Gale, to fight for the introduction of action sports to disabled athletes in a world where such individuals largely lack opportunities to participate in them.
However, none of these undertakings have even come close to measuring up to the life-altering challenge she faced at 19, which was a deadly grapple with Meningococcal Meningitis. Purdy stated that the disease left her “in a state of septic shock” and resulted in the amputation of both her legs below the knee.
Purdy was given less than a 2% chance to live, and it was only after numerous blood transfusions, the donation of a kidney from her father, and the removal of her burst spleen that she survived.
Despite having lost her legs, Amy Purdy has continued to be an optimist and takes a “never-give-up” approach in all her endeavors. This positive attitude is evident in her continued pursuit of snowboarding over the past 23 years. Purdy began boarding at the age of 15 and has only improved in her sport over time. Just this month, the athlete took home a silver medal in the “LL2 classification of women's snowboard-cross” at the 2018 Paralympic Games. During the 2014 Sochi Paralympics, Purdy nabbed bronze in the snowboard-cross event. She also possesses World Championship experience in the banked slalom event.
At present, Purdy is the only double-leg amputee participating in snowboarding at the world-class level. She has subsequently become an advocate for people with physical disabilities in action sports. Her activism in Adaptive Action Sports generated the push necessary to include snowboarding in the 2014 Paralympic Games, and her role as spokesperson for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which is “an organization that provides grants for training, competition and equipment for athletes with disabilities,” has made great strides in the athletic world for disabled individuals.
It is safe to say that Amy Purdy is an inspiration to athletes everywhere, and not simply because she demonstrates immense perseverance despite the challenges life has thrown her way. Her drive and determination to succeed as an athlete, as well as her willingness to speak up on behalf of others, is inspiration enough, and the mark she has left on the athletic world will surely last a lifetime.
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