She hops off the chairlift, plants her behind on the snow and puts her unbuckled foot into her snowboard boot. She fastens the binding tight, but not too tight.
She forces herself upright and heads down the powder-laden slope. As she races down the mountain with a myriad of left and right carvings, a cool breeze whistles against her face.
She is in her element, but that was not always the case.
After contracting Neisseria meningitis, a disease that caused havoc on her circulatory system, Amy Purdy had both of her legs amputated below the knee. She also lost both of her kidneys and had her spleen removed. At 19, doctors gave Purdy a two per cent chance of survival.
Fifteen years later and the owner of a new kidney from her father, Purdy is growing into her own as an inspiration to amputees everywhere.
Was the bronze medal she captured at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games a remarkable story or strength and perseverance? You bet it was. Did her recent participation in Dancing with the Stars help that image? Yes, it did.
Since her amputations, Purdy has also been on the big screen and competed in The Amazing Race.
These feats showcase the inner strength Purdy has always possessed. However, Purdy recently showed off that strength on an entirely different level.
She posed nude. She was not the cover girl for Playboy’s latest issue — far from it.
Purdy, now 34, was one of many athletes who stripped down for ESPN The Magazine’s 2014 Body Issue. Notable athletes who also disrobed include Prince Fielder of the Texas Rangers, Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals and seven-time grand slam singles tennis champion Venus Williams.
The big question is, of course, why did Purdy strip?
Purdy said she wanted to show the strength of her body. It was not long ago she weighed a mere 83 lbs. and had lost her legs.
“I was really weak, (but) it’s my body that has gotten me to where I am today,” Purdy told ESPN.
She admitted that her confidence level is not quite at 100 per cent, but she continues to gain confidence and challenge herself.
“My legs haven’t disabled me. If anything, they’ve enabled me,” said Purdy. “My legs have become a huge part of who I am and what I do.”
I have never met Purdy, nor have I ever seen her compete.
Nonetheless, Purdy — and others who appear naked — have the right to express themselves as they see fit. I respect the decisions by the athletes in the Body Issue to flash for the camera.
If anything, they’ve earned that right and I’m not going to take offense to their freedom of expression. In fact, I find it very refreshing, especially in the case of Purdy, whose mental strength is that much greater than her physical strength.
Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks.