Amy Purdy poses for a portrait during the Team USA Media Summit on Sept. 27, 2017 in Park City, Utah.
Three-time Paralympic snowboarding medalist Amy Purdy may have been one of the few Team USA athletes who “felt prepared” for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic quarantine.
She’s actually spent the past year in a self-isolated state in a fight to save her left leg after a serious blood clot that stretched from her hip to the bottom of her leg was found to have damaged her artery. Since last snowboarding 14 months ago, she’s had five surgeries and has had to slowly work her way back to just walking again on two prosthetic legs.
“I was riding better than ever, even better than I did at the last Paralympic Games. Everything was coming together for me and just clicked,” Purdy said. “But life is interesting. I worked years to get to that point and I finally got there and all of sudden I was basically knocked off my feet and starting over again.”
Purdy then continued, citing the uncertainty and sudden physical changes that rattled her daily life.
“I’ve just had to have a lot of patience because my body, as long as I supported it in a good way through healthy eating and exercising and different therapies, has really had to adapt and reroute blood vessels around this injured area. It’s really fascinating to see what the human body can do if you support it.”
Purdy now refers to that as Quarantine No. 1 and is calling her current situation — and that of the rest of the country — Quarantine No. 2.
As a kidney transplant recipient, she is taking the government’s safer-at-home regulations as serious as anyone, living her life fully on lockdown for the time being in Colorado. Her husband is with her, along with the wildlife in the mountains (she has a soft spot for foxes).
During this challenging period, Purdy has “woken part of herself up” and encourages everyone else to do the same.
“There are just no boundaries right now and nothing to guide us. We wake up and our days are wide open,” she explained.
“I’ve had to really come up with a schedule so that I do get my workouts in and I do feel productive. The most important thing is to allow yourself to go inward and really have this quiet time. When I’m training and competing or busy with motivational speaking, I’m not having time to read or write like I want to. This has given me the perfect time to do that.
“By going inward and being quiet, the more I read, the more creative I’m getting, the more I’m writing. I realize that’s really important, especially at this time. When are we ever going to get an opportunity to stay at home, not missing out on anything? You can’t have FOMO (fear of missing out) at all right now. Go inward and listen to yourself to see where you’re inspired.”
Now 40 years old, Purdy has grown leaps and bounds since given a two percent chance of living in 1999, when she lost both her legs below the knee after contracting bacterial meningitis. She and her now-husband Daniel Gale co-founded Adaptive Action Sports in 2005 to introduce people with an impairment to snowboarding and other action sports, and because of their efforts her sport was propelled onto the Paralympic Games program in 2014.
“We used to travel with no money all over the world to compete at these little tiny events just to represent adaptive snowboarding,” Purdy said of herself and Team USA members Evan Strong, Mike Shea and Keith Gabel. “We had to scrape by to make it happen, but now it’s become this professional sport where now there are even sponsors.”
Purdy won the bronze medal in her sport’s debut at the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 and went on to win a silver and a bronze medal at the PyeongChang 2018 Games, where banked slalom and snowboardcross were both on the program. She’s built a robust and impeccable personal brand through her television appearances on “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Amazing Race,” co-authoring her book, “On My Own Two Feet,” and her insightful and engaging presence on social media.
“I always say that if it doesn’t exist, then create it,” Purdy illuminated when asked about what legacy she hopes to leave.
Purdy doesn’t know yet if she’ll be able to return to competitive snowboarding — it will depend on if her leg can handle being in a prosthetic strapped to a snowboard for four hours a day — so for now she refuses to retire and is self-isolating to continue creating and enhancing new opportunities across her personal platforms.
“To see somebody in two prosthetic legs who didn’t even know if she could walk again, let alone snowboard and at the level I was able to, I hope it just shows what the possibilities are if you work hard at your sport or your craft,” Purdy said. “And not just Paralympians. And not just people with disabilities. I hope anybody can just sit back and relate to my journey and my challenges and see that if I can do something this big and make change, that maybe they can do that as well.”
So crack open a book during your quarantine. Write in your diary. Exert your creative juices.
Build something that didn’t exist before.
It’s working for Amy Purdy.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.