Las Vegan Amy Purdy took arduous journey to Hall of Fame
Paralympian Amy Purdy, who lost both legs below her knees in 1999, is one of six athletes who comprise the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame class of 2020.
Updated February 28, 2020 - 7:07 pm
Amy Purdy laughed at the irony of growing up in the Las Vegas heat and finding love in snowboarding.
She had no idea what direction the sport would take her, certainly not the traumatic route she wound up following.
A form of bacterial meningitis almost took Purdy’s life in 1999, and the infection claimed both legs below her knees. She underwent a kidney transplant a year later; her dad was the donor.
Purdy then had a mission.
She went back to snowboarding, becoming a two-time Paralympian and three-time medalist. Purdy co-founded a nonprofit to help those physically disabled, became a model and actress, became a finalist on the ABC hit show “Dancing with the Stars” and travels extensively to tell her story.
“It’s not just a platform for me,” Purdy said. “It’s a platform to inspire other people.”
The latest honor for Purdy, 40, came Friday when she was introduced as part of the 2020 class for the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame.
Purdy joins Larry Brown, former Las Vegas Stars pitcher and longtime Clark County politician; Shawn Davis, former National Finals Rodeo general manager; Glen Gondrezick, former UNLV and NBA player; Ryan Ludick, former Durango High School, UNLV and MLB player; and DeMarco Murray, former Bishop Gorman and NFL player.
The induction ceremony is June 5 at Orleans Arena.
“It’s an incredible honor,” Purdy said. “Especially growing up in Vegas, I never imagined that I would be an Olympic snowboarder and a Paralympic snowboarder. It’s a reminder of that dream that I had when I was a kid and getting to where I got to.”
Purdy began snowboarding when she was 15 and a student at Cimarron-Memorial, but four years later contracted Neisseria meningitis and was given a less than 2 percent chance at survival. The kidney transplant came in 2000, a week short of her Nov. 7 birthday.
After she emerged from those health scares, Purdy was ready to compete in snowboarding. She had to customize a snowboard that could be used with her prosthetic legs.
“I realized I could help other people who are maybe dealing with physical challenges and looking for excitement and adrenaline in their life and a quality of life,” Purdy said.
That led to the creation of Adaptive Action Sports, a branch of Disabled Sports USA. Its mission is to assist those with physical disabilities who wish to participate in action sports.
Purdy knows all about participating — and succeeding.
She won a bronze medal at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Russia and a silver and bronze in 2018 in South Korea.
Her greatest exposure came in 2014 on “Dancing with the Stars.” Purdy finished second, but sent a more important message about overcoming physical limits.
“Each thing I’ve done has tapped into a different demographic or a different audience, whereas ‘Dancing with the Stars’ was 18 million people watching every Monday and following my journey,” Purdy said. “It makes you realize how many people watch. A lot of men come up and say, ‘My wife watched you.’ I’m like, ‘Are you sure you weren’t watching?’ I’ve had a lot of support from Southern Nevada.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.
Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame class of 2020:
— Larry Brown, former Las Vegas Stars pitcher and current Clark County commissioner;
— Shawn Davis, former National Finals Rodeo general manager and three-time saddle bronc world champion;
— Glen Gondrezick, former UNLV basketball standout who played six seasons in the NBA;
— Ryan Ludwick, former Durango High School and UNLV baseball standout who played for six major league teams and made the 2008 All-Star Game;
— DeMarco Murray, star running back at Bishop Gorman who after a sensational career at Oklahoma became an All-Pro with the Dallas Cowboys;
— Amy Purdy, Cimarron-Memorial graduate who overcame the loss of her legs and a kidney transplant to become a two-time Paralympian and three-time medalist.