TV dance next for Purdy after Paralympic bronze
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — On the snow during the morning, then dancing in the afternoon, Amy Purdy had a strenuous routine in Sochi.
And one the American snowboarder was only too happy to put herself through.
After years of pushing for her sport’s inclusion in the Paralympics came the reward: A bronze medal in the inaugural event at the Winter Games on Friday.
That medal could soon be joined at home in Colorado by a sparkly mirror-ball trophy. Purdy is due in a Los Angeles television studio on Monday as the first double amputee to take part in ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”
To prepare for potentially several weeks of samba, tango and cha-cha-cha, pro dancer Derek Hough flew to Russia to perfect their ballroom bond.
As Hough waited around Sochi in the morning — with stray dogs for company according to his Instagram feed — Purdy was on the slopes. She would then take a gondola lift down to a hotel in the Alpine resort of Rosa Khutor to make she was as sure-footed and graceful waltzing across a dance floor as she was with a board on snow.
“It’s been a good distraction because we had a lot of down time here,” Purdy said. “It was really great to be able to dance, do something a little bit different and have something exciting beyond Sochi to look forward to.”
Even if that meant barely any time for rest in Russia.
“The energy came from adrenaline,” she said. “Pure adrenaline.”
After years of pure determination. “Courageous and inspiring” is how Hough describes the 34-year-old Purdy.
After taking up snowboarding at 15, Purdy contracted bacterial meningitis four years later which led to both legs being amputated just below the knee. The impairment didn’t hold her back, or stop dreams of sporting success for her and other physically challenged snowboarders, in forming Adaptive Action Sports with boyfriend Daniel Gale in 2005.
“After meeting Amy and watching her struggle just finding resources to get back into the sport she loved — snowboarding — it seemed like it was something that needed to happen for her and everyone else,” Gale said amid the celebrations at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center.
Minutes earlier, as Purdy completed her third and final run of the course, Gale rushed up and draped a Stars and Stripes flag around his girlfriend.
“So proud of you,” he said.
In an event where the two best times are combined, Purdy was 16.86 seconds behind Dutch winner Bibian Mentel-Spee, while Cecile Hernandez Ep Cervellon of France was second.
“The conditions here have been really challenging, it has been anything from ice to icy slush to just wet slush,” Purdy said in bright sunshine at a location that has seen little snow in recent weeks. “I wanted to play smart and I feel that’s what I did.”
With the high-profile dancing contest coming up, there was also the fear of injury.
“The course was so bumpy that it was just about staying on my feet,” Purdy said. “This course is really steep. It’s not a course where you are looking for speed. It’s a course where you are trying to figure out smart spots.”
She will be less at ease from next week on a wooden dance floor under studio lights with millions watching on television.
Far from envious at the attention on Purdy, American teammates are delighted a Paralympian will be in prime time.
“There is now that awareness she is bringing to the world,” said Mike Shea, who won silver in the men’s race. “And we couldn’t be happier for her.”
Shea was in the middle of an American sweep of the men’s podium, between winner Evan Strong and Keith Gabel.
“We are all best friends and to be involved in it and then to get a gold medal in the end is great,” said Strong, who was set for a career in skateboarding before being struck by a drunk driver while riding a motorcycle.
“After my accident and losing my (left) leg, snowboarding gave much more to me than just sport or racing. It gave me my life back. To see how far para snowboarding has come in such a short time makes me so proud.”
And Purdy will hope such sporting feats gain more mainstream exposure following her “Dancing With the Stars” appearances.
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris