2018 Paralympics: Amy Purdy dedicated to growing ranks in snowboarding

Content provided by USA Today

In the four years since winning a bronze medal in Sochi, Amy Purdy has been one of the leading faces of the Paralympic movement in the United States.

Immediately after the Sochi Games, Purdy debuted on Dancing with the Stars. She actually practiced with partner Derek Hough while in Russia for the Paralympics. The two finished runner-up to Olympic ice dance champion Meryl Davis and her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy in Season 18. 

She wrote a book, On My Own Two Feet, at the end of 2014 and the following year she joined Oprah Winfrey on a speaking tour. 

Purdy continues to bring attention to what amputees can accomplish, rather than talking about what they can't. "We all have different levels of abilities, whether you're missing a leg or not missing a leg," she said in 2014.  "It's nice to be able to represent people who deal with obstacles or physical challenges who maybe question what they were capable of."

She has faced some serious health issues in the lead-up to the Paralympics in South Korea. She was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, which is a condition that results in the breakdown of muscle tissue, in her arms. Purdy wrote on social media that she also suffered from brachial neuritis, which made her arms burn like fire. The condition caused numbness, weakness and muscle atrophy in her arms. 

"I spent my summer traveling to top specialists and after all I have been through in my life, this was the scariest of all not knowing what the outcome would be and wondering if I would ever have full use of my arms again," she wrote on Instagram last month. 

She added that's she feeling great after physical therapy and working her way back. 

When she's healthy, Purdy is a medal contender in a strong field that includes some of the world's top riders in U.S. teammates Brenna Huckaby and Nicole Roundy.  Purdy, who had both her legs amputated below the knee after being diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, won bronze at last year's world championships in banked slalom. 

Snowboarding competition in Pyeongchang begins Monday with boarder-cross, and banked slalom will be held March 16. 

Purdy has said she hopes the news media increase their coverage of the Paralympics so it's more on par with the Olympics. She noted Toyota is one of the sponsors that supports Paralympians in the same way it does Olympians. 

"That’s really important but also just the way we talk about the Paralympics," she said last fall at the U.S. Olympic Committee media summit. "I personally describe the Paralympics as the adaptive division of the Olympic Games. So that people don’t see it as such a separate sporting event. It’s the athletes, too; I think it’s educating people on what the Paralympics are and that we work as hard as every other Olympian.”

Purdy, 38, is a co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports, a non-profit dedicated to introducing people with physical challenges to action sports.  She and her now-husband, Daniel Gale, founded the organization in 2005.  

Adaptive Action Sports helps athletes reach the national team level and then hopefully the Paralympics, Purdy says. 

"I'm dedicated not only to being the best athlete I can be for myself but also mentoring and helping these other athletes do it as well," said Purdy, who is also sponsored by Bridgestone.

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