July 9th, 2015

By Jim Morris

A seven-year hiatus from competition helped Adam Purdy re-stoke his competitive spirit.

The three-time Paralympic swimmer used his time away from the sport to further his education and help raise a family. That break re-energized him physically and mentally.

The opportunity to compete at this summer’s Parapan American Games in Toronto in front of family and friends was too much to pass up, so Purdy returned to the Para-swimming national scene last year.

“From my end I never really left,” said the 34-year-old London, Ont., native. “It’s like riding a bike with swimming.

“When I retired in 2007 it was a bit of burnout but also . . . I wanted to do other things. Now that I am back in the water there is a rekindling of that fire. My biggest hesitation coming back was just how much of a commitment it is.”

Purdy faces a busy summer. The S6 swimmer, who has a disorder called arthrogryposis which has left him with a club foot and some muscles that did not develop, will compete at both the IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, July 13-19, and then the Parapan Ams in August.

“This is an opportunity to race in my backyard,” said Purdy. “I was born and raised in Ontario. My expectation is to really swim fast. I want to kick some ass.”

During his swimming sabbatical Purdy and his family moved to P.E.I. where he completed a masters program in applied health services research. He also “did family stuff” to help raise his daughter, nine, and son, five.

Purdy returned to London in 2009 and works for a Danish IT company called KIMIK iT which provides a web-based hosting platform for major and international Games including the Canada Games.

Having the comfort of a steady income, plus an employer that allows him to work from home with flexible hours, were big assists in Purdy’s goal to resume swimming.

“As we know, within the Canadian sporting scene you want to be able to give your best but you also have to be able to support your own means,” he said.

Purdy credits his coach Andrew Craven for devising a training schedule that improves his performance while complementing his obligations outside the pool.

“His understanding of Para-sport is paramount,” said Purdy. “Working with him, and some of the clubs in London, I have been able to work out a training regime that benefits me time wise.”

Purdy’s talents were on display at the Speedo Can Am Para-swimming Championships in March. Competing in the same pool that will host the Parapan Ams, Purdy won the 50-meter butterfly and 100-m backstroke.

“My body is probably in the best shape I have ever been right now,” he said. “I am only going to get better in my training.

“Taking the time off, it’s not like I sat around and ate nachos and drank beer. The next step in my game is to take my 100 backstroke to a new level of times and performance. I need to work closely with my coach and be able to figure out a new strategy.”

While training in London, Purdy often finds himself in the pool with swimmers half his age. He laughs about being “the old dude.”

“I am a little bit older but in my heart I am still doing the same thing,” he said. “Age doesn’t really faze me.”

Purdy admits he “borrows some of the energy from the young swimmers” but also passes along advice on training and race strategies.

From 1994 to 2006, Purdy was a Team Canada regular competing at all the major events. This included the IPC World Championships in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006 and the Paralympic Games in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

At the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia, he won gold in the 100-m backstroke in world record time and 4×100-m medley relay.

Any doubts Purdy had about coming out of retirement were quickly answered when he earned a spot on the Canadian team for the 2014 Pan Pacific Para-swimming Championships in Pasadena, Calif. He cemented his comeback by winning silver in the 100-m backstroke and setting Canadian records in the 50-m butterfly and 4×50-m medley relay.

Finishing ahead of Australian Matthew Haanappel in the 100-m back was a huge confidence boost.

“It did feel great to know you could step up and really take out a competitor I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to take out,” he said.

“It was one of those exhilarating feelings. It was not so much the medal, it’s touching the wall, looking up and seeing the time. It’s that gratification you get from putting that effort into it.”

Being able to race at home this August in the Parapan Am Games adds extra fuel to Purdy’s tank.

“To be able to look up and see family, these are all huge motivators for me,”

— Adam Purdy

“Just to be able to swim fast.

“I’m thinking the medals will be coming my way. I just want to be able to make sure I can perform optimally with no distractions. I just want to get my mind wrapped around the fact it’s a big competition. I’m ready to bust out some big times.”

With next year’s Paralympics in Rio in the horizon, Purdy has no regrets about returning to swimming.

“I love what I do,” he said with a grin. “Being in the water is where I’m supposed to be.”

 

Source : Swimming Canada