There are a whopping five athletes competing on the Season 18 cast of "Dancing With the Stars," but snowboarder Amy Purdy could have what it takes to beat them all.
The 34-year-old world-class parasnowboarder and motivational speaker lost both of her legs after she contracted bacterial meningitis at age 19. But while the life-changing tragedy claimed her spleen, kidney function, and both of her legs below the knees, Purdy's physical hardships haven't stopped her from reaching for the stars — and that includes a stint on "Dancing With the Stars" that could have her taking home some serious mirror ball bling.
Of course, the inspiring double amputee, who's one of the highest-ranked adaptive snowboarders in the world, didn't fare so well two years ago when she competed on another reality show, "The Amazing Race." She and partner Daniel Gale were sent home just two weeks into the competition, but that heartbreaking loss was largely due to a series of inept taxi drivers in Indonesia who couldn't find their way to a key clue location.
Purdy talks "The Amazing Race":
For "Dancing With the Stars," Purdy won't have to worry about public transportation, and it doesn't hurt that she's partnered with five-time mirror-ball champ Derek Hough, who's undeniably one of the best choreographers in the competition. Everything Hough touches seems to turn to gold ― just ask fellow "DWTS" cast members Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who brought home the first U.S. Olympic gold medal for ice dancing after working with him. And speaking of Davis and White, Hough spent a lot of time helping to choreograph their "My Fair Lady"-themed short dance, so he may have the inside scoop on the duo's weaknesses.
Viewer votes are a huge part of "Dancing with the Stars," and America loves an uplifting story. It doesn't get much more inspiring than Purdy's.
"I always say snowboarding saved my life," she told the Huffington Post in a recent interview. "It gave me a reason to focus on the future. ... It gave me something to be passionate about." Indeed, the driven athlete hit the slopes a mere six months after losing her legs, and she continues to look at the positive side of her situation: "I always felt really lucky that I only lost my legs, because it could've been so much worse," she said in a video for Women's Health.
She'll need America's support if she wants to stay in the competition... and if she wants to stay with Hough. The pro announced on Tuesday's "Good Morning America" that there will be a little twist to the competition this year: At some point, the dancers will switch partners and it will be up to voters who goes to which pros.
Purdy's story of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds:
In addition to competing on "Dancing With the Stars," Purdy is set to represent the U.S. at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi next week.
Purdy talks about her vision for the 2014 Winter Paralympics:
The new season of "Dancing With the Stars" premieres on Monday, March 17 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
- Amy Purdy
- Derek Hough