By Jim Morris
When it came to charting out the next phase of his life, veteran Para-swimmer Adam Purdy decided this fall’s Paralympics just didn’t fit into his plans.
Purdy came out of retirement in 2014 with the objective of competing at last summer’s Parapan American Games in Toronto. With that goal realized, the soon-to-be 35-year-old has opted not to compete in Rio. The father of two recently announced his retirement, saying he wants to dedicate more time to his family.
“I think for me, hanging in there for another eight months is a big commitment and a big dedication,” the London, Ont., native said in an interview. “There’s a lot of other life things that come up that are big determining factors for an amateur athlete to stick it through. Family related things that come up.
“I can see the next phase of my life happening. Swimming was a major part of my life, it still is. But I think it’s a good time for me to be able to see that transition time of my life and recognize it’s not about me swimming in the pool anymore. It’s about a different perspective.”
Purdy’s highlight at the Parapans was placing third in the 50-m butterfly while shaving three seconds off his own Canadian record. He had switched his stroke and worked on his technique after failing to qualify for the event final at the IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, just a few weeks prior.
“I put myself in a state of awe when I touched that wall and looked up and saw a number I had never even fathomed to see before,” he said. “For me it was quite an experience.”
The S6 swimmer also won silver in the 100-m backstroke and was part of the bronze-medal winning 4×50-m, 20-point free-style relay team.
The podium finishes gave credence to Purdy’s decision to come out of retirement, but the experience of swimming in Toronto extended beyond the competition.
“I think my mind and my body were functioning optimally because I knew it was such an important opportunity,” he said. “My family was going to be there, my friends from Toronto and all the region.
“With it being on home soil it adds an extra level of exposure and awareness, not just for myself but my sport as well.”
Purdy hopes the Toronto Games helped raise the exposure of Para-sports and encouraged young people with an impairment to consider swimming.
“How many new swimmers might we have affected?” he said. “We might not see many right now, but there might be so many that come out of the woodwork because of that experience.
“That was part of my whole game plan to try and use my performance, my skill sets, to try to get the next round of swimmers coming through.”
Purdy has a disorder called arthrogryposis which has left him with a club foot and some muscles that did not develop.
He first joined the national team in 1994 and has competed at five World Championships and three Paralympic Games.
At the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia, he won gold in the 100-m backstroke in world record time and 4X100-m medley relay.
He first retired in 2007.
“It was a bit of burnout but also . . . I wanted to do other things,” he said.
During his seven years away from competing Purdy and his family moved to P.E.I. where he completed a master’s program in applied health services research.
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.
The desire to swim never left. With a steady income, plus an employer that allowed him to work from home with flexible hours, Purdy decided to return to competitive swimming.
Looking back, Purdy has no regrets.
“The Parapan Am Games was exactly what I wanted to do coming out of retirement,” he said.
He also believes now is the right time to climb out of the pool.
“It would have been nice to go (to Rio) but I don’t have any negative feelings about not going,” he said.
Purdy plans to stay involved in the sport, doing some coaching and swimming some master’s events.
“It’s not like you ever hang your suit up.”
He plans to continue to work with the London Aquatic Club and is excited about watching his 10-year-old daughter progress in the sport.
“I love swimming,” he said. “From a young age it’s been a big part of my life. It’s something that will continue to be a big part of my life.
“Part of my decision to retire at this point was due to my daughter. She’s really biting at the bit to get into the next level of swimming. Now I believe it’s her time to be in the pool.”
Purdy believes he can offer guidance and support to other swimmers.
“I will continue on with the transfer of knowledge I have gained,” he said. “It would be a shame not to work with the next generation.”
Purdy laughed when asked if there’s any chance he will come out of a retirement a third time.
“I’ve filled my boots with my need to come back and do some amazing things,” he said. “I did it. It’s been a great go at it.”