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October 18, 2017

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Amy Purdy of Las Vegas quicksteps her way into ‘DWTS’ finals — was it Oprah’s phone call?


Adam Taylor / ABC

Amy Purdy, Derek Hough, Sharna Burgess and Charlie White on Season 18 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday, May 12, 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 »

Amy Purdy on DWTS

Maybe it was the live telephone call from talk-show titan Oprah Winfrey during rehearsals? Maybe it was the new running blades? Maybe it was family and friends loudly cheering in the studio audience? Maybe it was the Twitter and social-media explosion of support?

Whatever it was, it still took heroic courage, extraordinary passion, incredible determination and two furious dances for Paralympian Amy Purdy to narrowly vault into next week’s finals — and four dances — on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” during Monday night’s semifinals.

For a while, there was much drama as Las Vegas heroes Amy and pro-dance partner Derek Hough were placed in jeopardy along with two other Olympic contenders. Amy slipped from the top of last week’s leaderboard.

First came her quickstep to The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love.” For the first time, she used new “running blades” to help her move around the dance floor.

During rehearsals, Oprah called to encourage the couple to victory and promised to take out Amy and Derek for dinner win or lose and says that she’s voting for them because they are such an “inspiration.” Said Amy: “Getting a phone call from Oprah was definitely one of the epic moments of my life.”

Amy lost her legs below her knees around the time of her 19th birthday from bacterial meningitis. She graduated from our Cimarron Memorial High School and had just started work as a massage therapist at Canyon Ranch Spa in the Venetian. Her father Stefan donated a kidney to her when she was fighting to stay alive with just a 2 percent chance to live.

She diligently pursued her love of snowboarding and went onto win gold in the New Zealand games and bronze this year in the Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.

Amy and Derek scored 39 points out of a possible 40 with guest judge Kenny Ortega telling viewers to listen to Oprah and vote for the duo. Judge Len Goodman was booed for his 9 vote. Said Amy: “Because of my legs, we weren’t able to have the hip contact that’s needed for a perfect quickstep. I understand the 9 from grumpy Goodman.”

Amy Purdy on DWTS

Next up was the jazz number for which the judges praised Derek’s inventive choreography. Kenny said: “You redefine choreography for this generation. There was no fear in the room.” Amy and Derek scored another 39 points, and that meant Derek, our former Las Vegas Academy student, had made it to the final four in 11 of his 13 seasons on the hit series.

Derek also won raves from the audience and judges for his film homage with former “DWTS” pros in the Macy’s Stars of Dance segment saluting Old Hollywood movies.

Meryl Davis and partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy jumped into the top place of the leaderboard with 80 for their Viennese waltz, and Amy and Derek slid into second place with 78. Charlie White, Meryl’s Olympic champion partner in Sochi, and Sharna Burgess were eliminated.

Next week, it’s four dances over the two-night finale. Said Amy: “One will be freestyle. The other three we’re still figuring out.” She added that she’s feeling much better but still icing her rib and shoulder muscles nightly from the injury sustained two weeks ago.

Derek revealed Monday night that he will be touring this summer with his sister Julianne Hough in the new show “Move Live On” and that Amy definitely plans to attend some of the tour stops. “Dancing With the Stars” has been renewed for a historic Season 19 this fall.

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.

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