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Amy Purdy & Derek HoughPara-snowboarding took place for the first time in the history of the Paralympic Winter Games today and American snowboarder Amy Purdy captured a bronze medal. After the medal ceremony tonight, Purdy will catch a flight to Los Angeles to prepare for her next competition, a shot at the mirrorball on the reality television show “Dancing with the Stars”.

Purdy, a double beneath-the-knee amputee, has been doubling up on her training while in Sochi, riding a snowboard in the morning and learning dance moves at night with her DWTS partner Derek Hough, five-time winner of  the show, who flew to Russia to train with her. Getting the opportunity to do anything, let alone snowboarding or dancing, is something doctors felt Purdy wouldn’t be able to do after she fell ill at age 19 with bacterial meningitis and after a series of complications lost both her legs.

Purdy and Hough compete Monday in the show’s season premier, joined by an athlete-heavy cast including swimmer Diana Nyad, the first person to complete a historic 110-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, former hockey player Sean Avery along with ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Purdy was also a contestant on “The Amazing Race” in 2012.

During Friday’s snowboarding competition, Purdy said at times she rode conservatively because of choppy conditions. “Today was more about staying upright, having fun and riding as smooth as possible with the conditions,” she said.

“I had a pretty challenging time, more challenging than I was expecting,” added Purdy, 34, the only double amputee in the field of 11 women. “The conditions this morning were choppy and icy and fast, which makes it a little bit harder for me to absorb with my legs. … For me it was just about playing it smart today and that got me on the podium.”

“It’s a breath of fresh air to have done it,” Purdy said. “The whole journey has been amazing. Most of us have been here from the very beginning. This is a great debut to show what we’re capable of.”

Purdy said she’s had great response from fans after it was announced she’d be on DWTS.

The show will provide a platform for Purdy, who hopes there’s increased focus on the abilities, rather than the disabilities, of amputees. “We all have different levels of abilities, whether you’re missing a leg or not missing a leg,” she said last week. “It’s nice to be able to represent people who deal with obstacles or physical challenges who maybe question what they were capable of.”

All the other teams have had three to four weeks to work on their first dance but Hough and Purdy have only had five half-days.  Purdy said she is daunted but not discouraged. Spoken like a true competitor.

Check out Purdy’s inspiration TED Talk here.

March 14, 2014
Amy Purdy & Derek Hough

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