“I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me, I didn’t want people to see me as disabled. I wanted to live a life of adventure and stories.” – Amy Purdy
This story is about Amy Purdy, a double amputee, bronze medal winner, author, and motivational speaker. Most importantly, it’s about how her journey and triumphs inspire those of all ages. With the heart and attitude of a champion, she has captivated many with her story.
At age 19, Purdy contracted and was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, a rare disease that often leads to the loss of limbs (Bruzek 2015). With Amy’s case, she lost both of her legs to the infection and then was given prosthetic legs.
Despite her circumstances, Purdy refused to let anything stand in her way. Instead of looking at challenges as obstacles, she welcomed them with open arms and became a world-renowned Paralympian in snowboarding. She realized, “Instead of going in thinking how it is, I’m thinking about my purpose and being in the moment. In the end, it’s not about what everyone else thinks–it’s about the experience, and what you take from it.” Amy started snowboarding at the age of 15, and even after her diagnosis and prosthetics, her love for the sport compelled her to continue competing (Ain 2014).
Initially, Amy struggled with adjusting to living with her prosthetic legs, but she was able to develop a positive attitude and mindset. Purdy refused to forget her dreams and instead made them reality. “I saw myself snowboarding again. I had visualized it so strongly in that moment that I didn’t just see myself carving down this mountain of powder. I could feel it, I could feel the wind against my face. I could feel the beat of my racing heart. I could feel my muscles twitching as if it was happening in that very moment. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I knew that I was going to do it.” (Huffpost 2015) Ultimately, she did just that. She competed in snowboarding competitions and continued to develop into the athlete that she is today. At the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games’ first women’s snowboard cross, Purdy participated and won a bronze medal. She even was an instrumental role in the inclusion of the sport.
During her time in Sochi, Purdy also set her sights on ballroom dancing, a testament to her desire to never back down from a new experience. With the help of her expert and professional partner, Derek Hough, they were able to place second on Dancing with the Stars (Pinelli 2014). Amy‘s presence on the show highlighted the fact that those with disabilities could be just as fierce and passionate in their endeavors.
Along with her positive focus focusing on the abilities, Amy and her husband, Daniel Gale, teamed up and established Adaptive Action Sports. AAS is a non-profit that provides a platform for individuals with physical disabilities to participate in many action sports like skateboarding and snowboarding (PBS). Purdy and Gale’s organization was the first to bring sports and athletic opportunities to a community that previously had little access to these resources.
Perhaps what’s most amazing about Amy is that she never let an obstacle block her path and kept persevering. Her movement to inspire individuals to realize that it’s about the mindset that you have when trying something still continues to have an impact today (Gallo 2015). She continues to motivate others by speaking at events and she has always said, “If it doesn’t exist, create it. You can sit back and wait for the world to present opportunities or you can create them yourself.” Purdy inspires the nation to fulfill our goals and also reach out of our comfort zones, even in the face of adversity.
Special Contributor: Brandon Bakos and Priyanka Bhatt