Amy Purdy experienced what some people would call a disadvantage, but she does not use that word to describe her situation. A better word in her vocabulary would simply be a change. A change that forced her to use creativity to continue participating in the sport that she loved. This change not only impacted her life, but also inspired her to ease experiences of other athletes going through a similar transition.
Amy loved to snowboard, but when she lost both of her legs below the knee at the age of 19 to a rare form of bacterial meningitis, she had difficulty even walking. She was lucky to survive, but her determination to adjust to the drastic change of riding on two prosthetic legs, and ability to flourish after her recovery is what makes her story incredible. She could have given up snowboarding after experiencing the pain and difficulty of riding for the first time with her new legs, but she decided to get back on the mountain and find a way to compete all the way up to the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. Although she would be the only competitor with two prosthetic legs, she knew that she would need to focus on her own snowboarding trials and not be intimidated by the other riders with at least one of their original good legs. Instead of dwelling over the fact that she did not have the advantage of at least one of her own ankles to assist her stance and performance, she looked to technology for a prosthetic solution that could compensate for the restraints of feet that are designed for walking and not the complex movements of snowboarding.
Amy Purdy continually went through changes during the search to find the most suitable prosthetic feet to strap into her boot. However, she did not view the different confinements of her artificial ankle as boundaries that could hold her back. Unlike sports that involve running that have provoked opinions about prosthetics potentially providing their athletes with an advantage, there is no pair of feet yet designed to accommodate the range of ankle movements needed to carve through challenging snowcross courses such as in Sochi. Amy still refused to be restricted between the walls of limited eversion and inversion, but decided to push off of these walls and propel into influencing other adaptive riders through organized camps and developing a plan to include snowboarding in the Paralympic program.
As Amy was adjusting to a new way of snowboarding, she did not have many resources to assist her in still pursuing her passion after the drastic change at the age of 19. She wanted to ensure that she could make and impact on others who shared the same passion of snowboarding by encouraging them to not let their impairments define their performances. Amy demonstrates the ways that we can allow changes to enable us, despite how difficult the transition may seem. She used her imagination to come up with her own outcomes to changes instead of letting a major change inhibit her as an athlete. Inspiring athletes who have gone through changes and came out on top remind us that if something does not seem possible or within reach, we can use the “boundaries” in the same way as Amy Purdy, and not be confined by them, but use them to drive us into places that we never imagined.
Check out her TED talk here.