It takes a lot of courage for anyone to sign up for Dancing With the Stars, but it's especially impressive that Amy Purdy will dance. The Paralympic snowboarder, 34, is paired with five-time pro champ Derek Hough, and we’ll see their first dance on the Monday, March 17 Season 18 premiere. So who is amazing Amy? Here are five things to know.
1. She almost died as a teenager. The story of how Amy lost her legs is terrifying, but it only makes it more impressive that she's still a competing athlete. One day, when the Nevada native was 19, she got sick, and thought she had the flu. Instead, she ended up at the hospital in septic shock. She suffered multiple organ failures and doctors had to remove her spleen. Amy was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, and she fell into a coma for almost three weeks. According to her website bio, doctors gave her a less than 2 percent chance of survival. There were complications limiting circulation to her legs, so doctors had to amputate both of Amy's legs below her knees. Can you imagine going through that as a teenager? Chances are, if there’s a Personal Story Week this season, we’ll hear more about this from Amy.
2. Snowboarding saved her life. The Nevada native started snowboarding at age 15, but after losing her legs she found few resources for disabled athletes in her field. So she and Daniel Gale launched the non-profit organization Adaptive Action Sports in 2005; the non-profit creates skateboard, snowboard and other action sports camps, events and programs for people living with permanent physical disabilities. Now Amy is the top ranked adaptive snowboarder in the U.S. and three-time World Cup Para-snowboard winner. "I always say snowboarding saved my life," she told The Huffington Post. "It gave me a reason to focus on the future, it gave me something to be passionate about."
3. She was on The Amazing Race. So she does have some reality competition experience … even if this one didn’t go too well. Amy and her “on and off” boyfriend Daniel Gale (see above and below) competed on The Amazing Race 21 in 2012. They were the second team eliminated, so hopefully she has better fortune on DWTS.
4. She met her boyfriend in a really cool way. According to Fab Wags, Daniel and Amy met in 2002 at a bar in Crested Butte, Colorado. He hit on her that night and then went on a date the next day — a snowboarding date. At the time, he didn't know she was a double amputee, but when she showed him her prosthetic legs he just found her even more incredible. “I was actually surprised that he was so mellow about it,” Amy said, “because I was used to people saying, ‘Oh, my gosh, what happened?’ or ‘Whoa, I’ve never seen that,’ or, ‘Is that carbon fiber?’ or something like that, and he was so mellow, he was just like, ‘Awesome.’”
5. She's still competing in Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. The Paralympic Games will be held soon in Sochi, and Amy will represent Team USA in Para-snowboarding. Her event is on March 14, which is just three days before the DWTS Season 18 premiere. Amy talked to TeamUSA.org about balancing DWTS with the Paralympics. "In November I got an email from Dancing with the Stars asking if I was interested [in competing],” she said. “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." It should be fun — and yes, she said she will be dancing in heels!
6. She has some dance experience — clogging! Amy told TeamUSA her previous experience includes dancing at the club, but also clog dancing when she was younger. "My mom was just really excited to get my sister and me into country clog dancing so we did that for quite some time,” Amy said. “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." If Derek knows about the clog dancing, you know he'll find a way to incorporate it into a routine!
For more about Amy, check out her story here: