Q&A: Amy Purdy

The Paralympic snowboarder on her proudest achievement

Amy Purdy has never been one to slow down. After losing both of her legs at age 19 due to meningococcal meningitis, she went on to become a three-time Paralympic Games medalist and one of the top-ranked adaptive snowboarders in the world. Her resume includes a second-place stint on Dancing with the Stars, a powerful TED talk, and the founding of a non-profit that helps others with permanent disabilities get involved with action sports.

Furthermore spoke to Purdy, who was recently honored alongside champion snowboarder Chloe Kim with the Inspirational Athlete Award at the 2018 Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular, about life after winning silver and bronze medal victories at the Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang.

What’s your exercise routine been like post-Winter Games?

I try to get really creative, and just use what I have around me. I travel a lot as a motivational speaker, so I often do bodyweight workouts in my hotel rooms. Jump squats are some of the best things that I've ever done for my legs. And I'll do push-ups, sit-ups, and lunges. I also like Pilates and barre classes. For me, it's about staying strong, fit, and toned. And it's important for me that I do it for myself—that I don't just do it for my sport. It's definitely a part of what keeps me feeling confident and healthy, and in control of my life and in control of my day.

Tell us about your Olympic journey earlier this year.

It started out really, really challenging. You have this vision that you're going to come to the Olympic Games or Paralympic Games and you're going to be at the peak of your physical fitness. That was my goal until I ended up with a double arm injury, which was a muscular condition that I got from training. I had to recover the majority of last year, and then I ended up with a nerve injury on top of that. I went into 2018 very unsure if I would be prepared for the games, but I decided to just keep my eye on the goal. In my first competitions last November I came in last place simply because I wasn't able to pull out of the start gates at a 100 percent. But coming through each competition, I started to feel my body get stronger and stronger. To win a silver in Pyeongchang in Snowboard Cross, which is the most aggressive of the sports that we do, I couldn't be happier. It really was this amazing journey. And I can see it's just look forward, look forward, look forward.

What else inspired you during the competition?

I was on Team Bridgestone and our goal was to inspire a younger generation to follow their dreams no matter what comes in their way. It was great to be able to work together and envision the future together.

After being diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis at age 19, you were given a less than two percent chance to live. How were you able to use that as a catalyst?

It completely changed my outlook on life because I was more aware of my mortality and that life can end so quickly. You have to use what you have now if you're healthy and you're strong and you're blessed. I just wanted to live the best life I possibly could, and not let my legs limit me. And in fact, my [prosthetic] legs have actually taken me to more places, and bigger places, than I ever would have gone had I not lost my legs. I had a lot of challenging times learning to walk again, and getting comfortable in my own skin again, and tons of medical issues. But at the same time I really tried to focus on what I had versus what I lost, and just continue to chase my dreams.

Out of all your accomplishments, what are you most proud of?

Starting our organization, Adaptive Action Sports. We started in 2005 to get youth, young adults, and wounded vets with permanent physical disabilities involved in action sports. We created camps and programs and trainings. We made this pipeline so somebody who just lost their leg, and is in a hospital bed not knowing if they’ll ever snowboard again, can relearn the sport with the right tools. And if they want to take it to a high competitive level, we've got elite snowboard coaches, and an elite snowboard team that can help them do that. And then of course, from that point forward, they can go through trials and make it to the Paralympic Games. For me the most compelling thing is being able to give back, and being able to affect somebody's life in a positive way. It's one thing to win a medal, but if you keep it to yourself there's really no joy around it. It's just kind of another thing sitting on your shelf. But being able to share that medal and also be able to help other people achieve that goal as well, I think is the most fulfilling thing that I've been able to do.

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