Paralympian Amy Purdy trades DWTS for a day in NASCAR – USA TODAY
FONTANA, Calif. – In the last nine days, Amy Purdy has won a bronze medal at the Paralympics in Sochi, made her debut on Dancing With The Stars and been given the VIP treatment at a NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
That’s quite a whirlwind for the 34-year-old double amputee, whose feats on two prosthetic legs have caught the eye of the nation.
On Saturday, Purdy visited Auto Club Speedway as a guest of Toyota and planned to sit on Kyle Busch’s pit box during the race. Before the green flag, she spoke with USA TODAY Sports:
Q: Are you over the jet lag yet?
A: I’m pretty close to being over it. They say for every hour of time difference, it’s a day of recovery. It’s an 11-hour time difference and I’m going on seven days, so I’m almost there.
It’s just all adrenaline. I definitely crashed this week at one point. I kind of willed myself to make it happen and I was able to do that.
Q: How were you able to manage this whirlwind of competing in the Paralympics and flying straight to Los Angeles to compete on Dancing with the Stars?
A: I honestly got really good this week at compartmentalizing. When I was snowboarding in the mornings (in Sochi), I was training and focused 100% on that. I couldn’t even let a thought of dancing go through my head.
Then I’d eat lunch and take three gondolas down, jump in a cab, go to the town next to the town I was in and dance with Derek (Hough, her DWTS partner) in the evenings. When I was there, I had to completely shut off my snowboarding side of things and just focus on the dancing.
I kind of realized that’s what worked for me: Really jumping into what I was doing at that moment. Three days before our Paralympic race, I stopped dancing altogether and jumped in 100% for snowboarding. And the minute that was over, my brain went right back to dancing. I jumped on a plane and flew out here. I’ve learned to constantly be aware of what I’m feeding my brain at what point.
FULL SLATE: Dancing up next for Purdy after Sochi
Q: What has the public reaction been like to your first week on DWTS?
A: It really has been unbelievable. There was a lot of pressure and buildup because I had gotten a lot of attention for the Paralympics and everybody knows I’ve got two prosthetic legs. I read some media report where they said, “We’re watching every step Amy is going to take.” You think, “Oh my gosh, I can’t mess up.”
But the reaction has been absolutely, unbelievably, overwhelmingly positive, which is great. I wanted people to not just be proud of me because I’ve got two prosthetic legs and I can dance, but I really wanted to dance really good. I can feel it kind of inside me and I know I can do it. I have to work a little harder than everybody else, maybe, but I know I can do this. So it’s great to see people are supporting that.
Q: You’ve been getting a lot of attention for all you’ve accomplished – and are still accomplishing. What’s the experience like when you’re thrust into a spotlight and you suddenly start getting recognized?
A: There’s two sides of it. One side is honestly I just put my head down and do my work. When it came to snowboarding, there was a lot of attention. I could think of all the things I had to do well and how I can’t fall. But then there’s another part of me that shuts those parts down right away and is like, “Just go do what you’ve been training to do. That’s all you have to do.”
Whether there are all these eyes on you or not, all you can do is what you are in control of. And that’s kind of how I’m going into this competition. There’s a lot of eyes on me. People want to see if I can continue to do well. My focus every day in practice is just to do the absolute best I can, so when I go out there on the stage, I’m not even thinking about it – I’m just having fun.
I’m pretty disciplined with shutting out information I don’t need. A lot of that is the media attention. It’s amazing and I’m grateful for all of it, but I’m certainly not watching all of it. Otherwise, I can get overwhelmed by all of it. I kind of literally just spend my days trying to take care of myself and dance, because we really don’t have much time to learn these dances and practice them.
Q: Which is more difficult – snowboarding in the Paralympics, competing on DWTS or trying to win the Amazing Race? (Purdy was a contestant in 2012.)
A: It’s tough to say one is harder than the other. Snowboarding was a three-year commitment. So much led up to that race. Dancing with the Stars, I’m being thrown right into it. There wasn’t this preparation period. So now I’m in it and I’m just doing everything I can.
I’m a motivational speaker as well, and a lot of prep goes into that. So they’re all similar with the strategy I go into prepare for them. I do as much practice as I can so when I’m out there performing – whether it’s snowboarding, speaking or dancing – I’m not thinking about it anymore, I’m just doing it and having fun. And that’s what it’s about for me.
Q: How has your experience with NASCAR been so far?
A: It’s awesome. I love it. When all the cars started up, chills went down my spine.
Q: Would you ever consider trying to race?
A: Absolutely! I would jump in one of these in a heartbeat. It’d be a blast.