Amy Purdy didn’t know what her life would look like when she lost both her legs due to an infection as a teen.
“When I lost my legs at 19, I thought my life was over,” Purdy told PEOPLE prior to arriving in Pyeongchang for the 2018 Paralympic Games. “I had no idea what my life would be like. But, at the same time, I also didn’t give up on myself.”
Now, almost 20 years later, the 38-year-old confesses that she would not change her path in life, despite the challenges along the way: “If you asked me if I would ever want to change my situation, at this point, I would say, ‘No.’ ”
She adds: “But it took quite a few years to get to that point, you know? It’s not just happy-go-lucky all the time. It’s making the choice of how you want to live your life, and I’ve chosen to live an adventurous life, and I’m lucky I’ve been able to do that.”
Purdy suffered bacterial meningitis and lost her legs below the knees. Now, she has two prosthetic legs she’ll be using as she hits the slopes in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“Having two prosthetic legs and being a competitive snowboarder is challenging,” she says. “I’m the only female in the world that has two prosthetic legs and snowboards competitively, so I don’t really have anybody else to learn from. I kind of have to figure it out myself, and I work on my legs and I’m always experimenting and trying new things.”
A film about Purdy’s life story is currently in development, and the married bestselling author and former Dancing with the Stars contestant is also a busy motivational speaker. Still, snowboarding has always been her first love.
“I started snowboarding when I was 15 years old. Absolutely fell in love with it. It was something that I knew I would do for the rest of my life,” she says. “I ended up losing both of my legs and I thought I would never snowboard again. But I decided to try to figure it out.”
“Snowboarding really was my passion,” Purdy continues. “It’s what got me through my toughest times, and I was eventually able to go on and snowboard, and I won a medal [at the 2014 Paralympic Games] in Sochi … And now I’m headed to the 2018 Paralympic Games.”
She describes the event as the biggest competition of the year, noting that it’s what she and the team sets their goals on.
However, the Games mean much more to her than just winning medals.
“Paralympics, to me, mean freedom and possibilities,” she says. “I mean, the possibilities are endless when you have the right support and opportunities, and a platform, and a place to go, and that’s what the Paralympics are.”
The learn more about all the U.S. athletes competing in the 2018 Paralympic Games, visit teamusa.org.