by Mariya Abedi
RIO DE JANEIRO — As tonight’s stage gets set at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janiero for the 2016 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony, U.S. Paralympian snowboarder Amy Purdy has been preparing for her big moment.
The Sochi Bronze medalist and former “Dancing With the Stars” contestant will be taking the floor for a solo dance routine on an international stage. But it won’t be anything like what viewers have seen her do on DWTS, which Purdy almost won on season 18 when she came in second to Olympian Meryl Davis.
Her Rio performance will be almost five minutes long — more than the minute and a half that she’s used to — and she won’t have a dance partner the entire time. Purdy can’t reveal too much about the dance, but promises a surprise dancer to step in at one point.
“It’s mostly a contemporary dance, but I wanted to make sure to include some Brazilian flavor to it with some samba,” Purdy said of her performance, which she has been rehearsing for months to make sure she could get her hips to twist the way she wanted them to while wearing her prosthetics.
The 36-year-old, who is a double amputee, will be switching back and forth between two sets of prosthetics, her carbon-fiber running blades and her swimming feet. She will also be wearing an outfit that showcases some innovative technology.
“It combines the whole idea of the Paralympics: human spirit and technology. That’s what this whole dance does; it works together,” she said. “Showing the world the possibilities of Paralympic athletes and just how interesting and cool our situations can be, is a huge part of this dance and why we’re doing it in the Opening Ceremony.”
The Las Vegas native, who normally takes part in the winter Paralympics, will shift focus back to snowboarding training once she returns home from Rio. She’s aiming to make the next winter Paralympic team for South Korea in 2018.
“It’s been a bit of a balance the last couple of months with training and Rio, but my sights are on the next Paralympics and gearing up for the World Cups in November,” Purdy said.
Purdy began snowboarding when she was 15. But soon after graduating high school, she contracted bacterial meningitis, and doctors had to amputate both of her legs below the knee. She built her own prosthetics when she couldn’t find any available for snowboarding and was soon back on the slopes. After winning several snowboarding competitions, Purdy made it to Sochi in 2014, where she won the Bronze medal.
Off the slopes, the multi-talented star is involved with several non-profit organizations, including her own Adaptive Action Sports, a group that aims to introduce sports to people with physical challenges. She’s taking her outreach to Rio as well.
“While I’m here, I’m involving myself in a Team Rio charity that helps underprivileged kids out here and help get them to the games,” Purdy said. “I’m trying to do everything I can to support the athletes, support the games and also, support the country the games are in.”
By the time the Paralympics are over, Purdy and her husband will have spent several weeks in Rio de Janiero. The two recently celebrated their one-year anniversary in Brazil, and they hope to be back.
“Everyone here has been so warm to us. I can’t get over how hospitable they’ve been to us,” Purdy said. “And the scenery is absolutely spectacular; everywhere you look, the panoramic views are jaw dropping, beautiful.”