It is almost hypnotic watching the rhythmic motion of Adam Purdy as his tattooed arms windmill through the water, repeating the same strokes he’s made countless times before.
Purdy is no slouch in the pool. A three-time Paralympian with two gold medals, who has also made an appearance at four world championships, Purdy has more than earned his swimming merit badge.
Married, with two kids and a day job working for an IT company based out of Denmark, the 34-year-old London resident could easily justify spending his spare time kicking back with friends and family.
But not Purdy, who seven years after retiring from competitive swimming, is back in the pool training for the upcoming 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto.
Purdy was born with arthrogryposis, a congenital condition leaving him with twisted joints and underdeveloped muscles.
He began his competitive swimming career at the age of 13 with an appearance in Malta at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming World Championships in 1994.
Since then, Purdy has represented Canada at competitions around the world. Most notably among those is the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney Australia, where he won gold in both the 100m backstroke and 4x100m relay.
Taking what he now refers to as a break from competitive swimming in 2007, the lure of being able to step back into the spotlight on home turf, not just in front of friends and family, but maybe more importantly, with his daughter Olivia, 10, and four-year-old Simon watching from the stands.
Purdy said while Simon has a grasp on understanding disability, Olivia, on the other hand, can appreciate the nature of the sport itself and how the classification works. What Purdy finds “pretty cool” is how he and parasports have gained a following at her school, where Purdy has spoken to students before.
Scheduled to compete in the 100m backstroke and 50m butterfly in the S6 disability category, Purdy is also likely to anchor the backstroke leg of the 4x100 relay with a possibility of finding himself in the 4x50 as well.
To help him prepare for the competition, he’s enlisted the help of long-time coach and friend, Andrew Craven. Attributing Purdy’s “level of commitment an attention to detail” as a big factor in his comeback, Craven says that serves as an inspiration to local club swimmers.
And while ultimately his success will be gauged by results in the pool, getting there is a job in itself. Even after squeezing in dry-land training, gym workouts and 12 hours a week in the pool between the demands of work and family, Purdy still feels success at this level of competition is as much in the mind as it is in the body.
It’s delays and the little unexpected things that throw off an athlete.
“I could always go out there and swim and my body is trained to go out there and perform,” said Purdy. “ But if my mind is not in it, I don’t even dare.”