Meet the Athletes

Amy Purdy

Amy Purdy

Amy Purdy started snowboarding at 15 and loved it. Then, at 19, she contracted a particularly virulent form of bacterial meningitis. She went into septic shock, which led to double amputation below the knees and the loss of her spleen and a kidney. Doctors gave her a 2% chance of survival.

Beating the odds, she survived, and her indomitable spirit helped her back to the slopes. “I just remember laying in the hospital bed and visualizing myself snowboarding again, and traveling the world, and doing all of the stuff that I love to do,” she recalls.

Unhappy with her prosthetic legs, Amy proceeded to design her own with the help of her doctor. The first pair had rusty bolts and neon-pin duct tape. She now jokes that she collects legs, no longer has to be 5’ 5”, and her feet are never cold.

In 2005 Amy and her partner Daniel Gale founded Adaptive Action Sports, a non-profit organization that encourages youth and injured veterans with physical disabilities to pursue their interests in adaptive snowboarding and skateboarding. One of the organization’s big success stories is Team USA’s Evan Strong, who now teaches boarder clinics at AAS.

And Amy and Daniel have achieved one of their goals for their sport: getting para-snowboarding into the Paralympics. The Sochi Games will be the first to feature snowboard cross, or racing, in the Aalpine division.

Purdy has won three back-to-back World Cup gold medals in snowboard cross, has become the top-ranked para-snowboarder in the U.S., and is a favorite to win a gold medal at the Sochi Paralympics.

To top it all, Amy is also a model, actress, motivational speaker and licensed massage therapist. She and Daniel were also contestants in The Amazing Race in 2012.

Update from Sochi: Amy took home a bronze medal in snowboard cross.

Photo courtesy of NBC Sports.

Back To Athletes

More From PBS