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October 30, 2014

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Photos: Despite injuries, Paralympian Amy Purdy lands atop leaderboard on ‘DWTS’

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Adam Taylor / ABC

James Maslow, Peta Murgatroyd, Amy Purdy and Derek Hough compete on Season 18 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday, May 5, 2014.

Las Vegas’ Amy Purdy on ‘DWTS’

Tom Bergeron, Amy Purdy of Las Vegas and Derek Hough on Season 18 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday, May 19, 2014. Launch slideshow »

Despite painful shoulder injuries from a pulled rib and muscle spasms, courage and determination took Paralympian Amy Purdy to the top of the leaderboard on Monday night’s “Dancing With the Stars” on ABC.

The Las Vegas 34-year-old, who lost her legs beneath her knees within a week of her 19th birthday from bacterial meningitis, was fitted with prosthetic limbs. Incredibly, she’s now the frontrunner and goes into the semifinals next Monday.

It was touch and go and down to the wire at final dress rehearsals before doctors gave Amy the go-ahead to perform an Argentine tango and a jive during the two-hour telecast.

Her pro-dance partner, former Las Vegas Academy student and five-time champion Derek Hough, created choreography to assist his injured partner and allow her to rest halfway in the routine. The video package showed Amy in too much pain, after being rushed to a hospital last week, to dance in rehearsals. For most of the week, she watched Derek rehearse with a member of the TV troupe.

Derek’s choreography and her inspiration won them perfect-10 scores from each of the judges for 40 out of 40, even though halfway through the dance she had to rest a few seconds on a stool that became part of the tango.

At Urban Medical in Los Angeles, Amy underwent a series of laser treatments, chiropractic sessions and ice and heat treatments before returning to the dance studio Friday. She is back at the center this morning for continued treatment and to ensure that Monday night’s workout hasn’t worsened the injury.

A unique twist challenged the dancers in the second half of the top-rated show. Amy had to switch partners, so Derek danced with fellow pro Peta Murgatroyd, and Amy danced with Nickelodeon star and Big Time Rush singer James Maslow. They danced the jive, and the judges, including outspoken guest judge and “Dance Moms” star Abby Miller, were again generous for Amy’s determination with a score of 39 out of 40.

It was enough for Amy to jump to the top of the leaderboard. After the elimination of actress Danica McKellar and Val Chmerkovskiy, it meant that the other semifinalists next week ranked below Amy (79 points) are Olympic champion Charlie White (78), James (75), actress Candace Cameron Bure (74) and Olympic champion Meryl Davis (70).

Next Monday, Las Vegas regular and director and choreographer Kenny Ortega (“Dirty Dancing,” “High School Musical”) is the guest judge, and Amy and Derek will be challenged with either a Latin or ballroom dance.

On the press line after the show, Amy said: “The most unexpectedly great thing about being on this show is how much you learn about yourself. It’s truly life changing. We’ve had such memorable dances, and I loved tonight’s jive.

“I am so grateful and thank everybody for their support getting me through tonight, and I hope next week I will be stronger, better and back to normal. This was an awesome night. But it’s more ice packs, heat packs and the chiropractor first thing in the morning to make that happen.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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