Sports fans have the opportunity this week to follow the Paralympic Games, in which 4,350 inspiring para-athletes will compete in 22 different sports. The Games, which run through Sept. 18, kicked off on Wednesday with an Opening Ceremony at the same stadium in Rio in which the Olympics began a month ago.
This time, snowboarder and Paralympic medalist Amy Purdy dazzled crowds with a samba-like dance routine performed alongside a robot to demonstrate “the relationship between the human spirit and technology.”
“When I think of the Paralympics, I think of these amazing athletes who have dedicated their lives to their sport, and I also think of the cool cutting-edge technology used during the Games that help these athletes compete at their fullest abilities,” Purdy tells Yahoo Style. “This dance represented that idea.”
Purdy, who drew widespread attention and respect when she competed on the 18th season of Dancing With The Stars, took the technology theme further by wearing a 3D printed dress made by Tel Aviv fashion designer Danit Peleg. The dress, which took 120 hours to print, wasn’t “ideal to dance in,” according to Purdy, but she did love the way it looked.
“The dress was inspired by me, and the material matches the material of my feet,” Purdy says. “It was custom-fit to my body, and throughout the process I made suggestions to make it shorter, tighter and looser in spots.”
Purdy danced on running blades and swimming feet, the latter of which she liked for their pointed toe, from a company called Freedom Innovations. The blades are not designed for dancing, so Purdy created her own style, using core strength for the routine.
“I need to continue moving at all times since they are basically giant springs,” she said of the running blades. “If you stop moving, you fall over.”
A photo posted by Amy Purdy (@amypurdygurl) on Sep 6, 2016 at 6:48pm PDT
Now 36, Purdy was 19 when what appeared to be a simple fever turned out to be the bacterial disease Neisseria meningitis, which rapidly escalated and led to septic shock. She survived against the odds but needed a double leg amputation. Afterward, athletic prosthetics allowed her to compete as a snowboarder and, later, a dancer. She and her husband founded Adaptive Action Sports, a nonprofit that provides programs for disabled snowboarders and skateboarders.
A photo posted by Amy Purdy (@amypurdygurl) on Sep 7, 2016 at 7:16pm PDT
Although she had reservations about performing the samba in front of Brazilians, Purdy says she was able to pull from both her snowboard competition and Dancing With the Stars experiences for the performance.
“According to the producers, the dancer they chose needed to be able to dance the samba and shake her hips a certain way. The choreographer kept telling me early on that nobody believes that this American girl with running blades is going to be able to samba,” she says.
But Purdy persevered, and says that “kicking off such an important event for the adaptive athletes of the world” is something she’ll never forget. Throughout Rio 2016, in addition to her role in the Opening Ceremony, she will be working as a reporter for NBC.