FORT WAYNE – The Moment for Amy Purdy was not on the podium, watching the flags go up and feeling the weight of that bronze medal around her neck. That was just relief she felt up there, like a held breath finally and fully released.
Definitely an emotional moment, she says, sitting in the gymnasium at Turnstone three months after that charged March day in Sochi, Russia. I was just incredibly proud and grateful I was able to bring a medal home.
And yet, that was not the Moment. The Moment came earlier, in the starting gate, when Purdy looked down that long slope of white and saw everything back of it, saw Neiseria meningitis and septic shock and the loss of her kidneys and both her legs below the knee. And how all that happened when she was just 19.
(That was) the most intense moment, Purdy says. But you have to control your emotions and go out there and do what you were trained to do.
And maybe think about how losing her legs helped her stand tall in ways she couldn’t have possibly imagined.
In the 15 years since, Purdy has co-founded a nonprofit, Adaptive Action Sports. She’s worked as a massage therapist and an amputee advocate for Freedom Innovations, a prosthetic feet manufacturer. She’s appeared in a music video with Madonna and a feature film (What’s Buggin’ Seth) and The Amazing Race, and she was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, where she finished second with partner Derek Hough.
The latter was hell on her prosthetics.
I went through more feet with Dancing with the Stars’ than snowboarding, says Purdy, who was in town Thursday and today for the groundbreaking of Turnstone’s $14.1 million expansion. Bolts would break, carbon fiber would split, wood would break. I went through so many pairs of feet, I have a closetful of broken feet and boxes of feet that I haven’t used yet.
None of this she regards as adversity, mind you. Adversity was falling in love with snowboarding at 15 and then having to figure out how to keep doing it after losing her legs. Adversity was eating, breathing and sleeping snowboarding in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Paralympics, all the while using equipment ill-suited to the purpose.
I’m still adjusting obviously to go from having legs for 19 years and then snowboarding at that time, and having prosthetic legs and snowboarding, Purdy says. Even though I’ve done it for a good 10 years with prosthetic legs, I’m constantly trying to find the right feet, find the right equipment that works the way I want it to that works more like a natural foot. And right now there’s nothing out there that does that.
I have to get really innovative and creative with the feet that I use. But it’s also something I’m passionate about, too. For me, following my passions is what’s moved me forward after I lost my legs. So being passionate about snowboarding is something I knew I wanted to continue doing.
Fast forward to March, and Sochi, and the starting gate. And then the podium.
It was a first time for me, so it was something that was kind of surreal, says Purdy, who’s taking a break from training for 2018 to write a book and launch a clothing line. You build it up in your mind, and your work really hard toward it, and for me I sacrificed everything. So to be there representing my country and also be able to bring a medal back, that was an incredible gift.
And a Moment of moments.