Amy Purdy can snowboard but can she dance? On Tuesday’s Good Morning America, it was revealed that Purdy, who is ranked No. 2 in the world in para-snowboarding, will compete on Season 18 of Dancing with the Stars. Currently the only double amputee competing in the international para-snowboarding field, she will become the first U.S. Paralympian to appear on the hit reality television show.
Purdy will team up with five-time Dancing with the Stars champion Derek Hough to compete against Olympic gold-medalist ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, actors Candace Cameron Bure and Danica McKellar, comedian Drew Carey, and six other celebrities. Purdy will make her dancing debut March 17, just three days after making her Paralympic debut in Sochi, Russia.
You’re going to be on upcoming season of Dancing with the Stars. How did that come to be?
In November I got an email from Dancing with the Stars asking if I was interested [in competing]. Right away, I was really excited but I told them this had to be after the Paralympics because I obviously didn’t have time to do it then. I got on the phone with the producers and we first talked about if I even liked dancing, which I do love. I’ve actually watched the show before and thought, I can do this, or at least I think I can do this.’ I told them ‘yes,’ though it had to be after the Paralympics, and they said ‘no problem.’ It is after the Paralympics, but is right after we race so it’ll be a little challenging but fun.
Have you started dancing already?
I have started dancing. I got to meet my partner Derek Hough. I got to dance with him last week and it was amazing. Honestly, it’s such a cool experience. You discover something new about yourself in the process.
Did you have any worries or hesitations about going on the show?
To be honest, I did question [going on the show and] having two prosthetic legs. I want to make sure that I can do this and have fun. I know that I can dance. I go out with my friends and I love dancing; however, it’s complicated what they do [on the show]. There’s a lot of footwork. There’s pointing your toes and looking graceful. I was a little concerned at first, but then I just thought this is an opportunity to try it out and who knows how far I can go or if we can come up with some cool, innovative ways [to do what other dancers can do]. Maybe I can’t point my toes, but maybe I can do something else. I’ve really just gone into this as ‘This is fun; this is completely to try it out and hopefully it does inspire other single-leg amputees or other people who have challenges or limitations to get out, try something new and have fun with it.’
What dances are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to our first dance. I’ve already got an idea of what we’re doing, and I’m really excited about it. I’ve sent off music that I love and hope we get to use for some of our dances. I love music as well and think it will help get me into the mood. Honestly, I’m excited for all of the dances because I’m excited to learn some new stuff.
What do you think the biggest difference is between dancing and snowboarding?
The biggest difference between snowboarding and dancing, especially Dancing with the Stars, is snowboarding is such an independent sport. We’re out there competing for Team USA, but when you’re racing it’s just you against the clock. Everyone has such a different approach. We all have different lines we take and completely different game plans. It’s a very independent sport, whereas dancing you rely on your partner so much. It’s such a team effort. Every single move you make is together. You’re leaning and pushing on each other, and you have to be there for your partner as much as your partner is there for you. It’s really exciting going from just focusing on what I’m doing to focusing on what we’re doing and wanting to do well not just for myself but for my partner as well.
Will you be dancing in heels?
Yes, I’ll definitely be dancing in heels. I don’t know how high I’ll be able to go but I’ve got these awesome feet that will allow me to go at least two or two-and-a-half inches so I’ve already been dancing in those. It’s awesome. It’s been working really well.
Before this, have you had any dance training or has it been all for fun?
My dance training has been out at the club or clog dancing when I was young. My mom was just really excited to get my sister and me into country clog dancing so we did that for quite some time. Honestly, I loved it. I loved performing and being on stage. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to get back into performing in some way and, to tell you the truth, right before I lost my legs I started to get really into dancing. I thought, ‘I want to start dancing and take dance classes,’ but then I lost my legs so I didn’t really get the opportunity to. It’s not that I couldn’t dance but I guess my priorities changed so I’m just excited to get this opportunity to dance and see what I can do and have fun.
With this experience being so close to the Paralympic Games, is it nice to have something else on your mind besides snowboarding?
It was a bit of a challenge thinking I’m learning to dance at the same time that I’m training for the Paralympics. To tell you the truth, we’re only going to get about a week of dance practice before I compete at the Paralympics and literally jump on a plane to compete in our first competition. I’m going to have a lot less dance practice than the other competitors. That was a little challenging for me, but I agreed to do this as well because I thought it would be a good distraction from just thinking about my snowboard race. Ever since snowboarding was introduced into the Paralympic Games, that’s all I’ve thought about. That’s all I’ve worked for, so it feels really good to go out and train with snowboarding and then put on my dance shoes and let loose, have fun and take my mind off of the seriousness of the competition. It’s a really good, healthy distraction right now.
What would it mean to you to win the mirror ball trophy?
It was funny, I was telling my partner that I didn’t even know what the mirror ball trophy is but whatever it is, I’m winning it. If it’s gold, I want to win it.
When are you leaving Sochi and when does Dancing with the Stars begin?
I compete in snowboard cross in the Paralympics on the 14th with medal ceremony that evening. Then I jump on a plane that next day, fly like 30 hours to Los Angeles, and less than 24 hours after I land we do our first live [Dancing with the Stars] show. I’m sure there’s going to be jet lag, but I’m sure there’s going to be so much adrenaline that I’ll just make it happen [for the show] and then crash for 48 hours after that.