On March 17, just three days after snagging a bronze medal in the women’s snowboard cross competition at the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia, Amy Purdy, who has bilateral below-knee amputations, traded in her snowboard boots for dancing shoes. Led by her partner for the show, pro dancer and choreographer Derek Hough, she took to the dance floor for season 18, episode one, of Dancing With the Stars (DWTS). The two danced the cha-cha to OneRepublic’s song “Counting Stars.” Despite suffering from jetlag, the two scored a 24 out of 30 points.
The following week the two performed a swing dance to the song “Swing Set” by Ani diFranco, again scoring 24 out of 30. Weeks three through seven featured a guest judge, giving each dance pair the ability to earn up to 40, rather than 30, points; Purdy and Hough earned 36 points for their week three performance, a contemporary dance choreographed to Christina Perri’s “Human.” An interview with Purdy, 33, was aired during the show. In that interview, she talked about contracting bacterial meningitis when she was 19 years old, and losing both legs and her kidney functions as a result. “I always say that my dad gave me life twice,” she said in the video. “He brought me into this world and through his gift [of a kidney] he kept me in this world.” The clip went on to show a family video of Purdy dancing for the first time after receiving her prostheses-with her father, to whom she dedicated her episode three performance.
Throughout the ten-episode series, including the week four “partner switch-up,” during which the guest celebrities are paired with different pro dance partners, Purdy continued to score high marks, gaining momentum as the series progressed. The season ended May 19 with a two-way dance off: Purdy and Hough versus Olympic figure skater Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, a Ukrainian Latin Ballroom dancing champion, choreographer, and instructor. Each pair had to perform three dances, with the opportunity to score a maximum of 90 points. Purdy and Hough performed a salsa, freestyle dance, and Argentine tango/cha-cha fusion. They scored 89 out of 90 for the evening and finished in second-place. Purdy has the added distinction of being the first bilateral amputee to compete on DWTS.