Meet Oksana Masters, a 5x Paralympic athlete. Oksana was born in Ukraine in 1989 with both of her legs damaged by in-utero radiation poisoning from Chernobyl, a nuclear reactor incident 3 years prior.
She was born with six toes on each foot, five webbed fingers on each hand, and no thumbs. Her left leg was six inches shorter than her right and both were missing weight-bearing bones.
Oksana was given up for adoption from birth because her birth "defects" were going to require lots of medical help. After living in 3 different orphanages, she was adopted by an American woman and moved to New York. Her disabilities at birth required Oksana to have both legs amputated; the left at age 9 and the right at age 14.
As a young teenager, Oksana began competing in adaptive sports, including rowing which later lead her to the 2012 London Olympics where she brought home a bronze medal for the first time in her athletic career. But that was just the beginning!
Soon after she found a love for skiing and trained for 14 months leading up to the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. In 2014 Oksana represented Russia and won both silver and bronze medals. Oksana has represented Team USA in the 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020 Paralympics in three different sports: rowing, cross-country skiing, and hand cycling, respectively.
Oksana shared in an interview- "I didn’t get into sports to win, exactly. I got into them because of what they’ve helped me to understand about myself. Sports have made me see how the body - my body - has a power that should never be underestimated."
I feel like the theme that people focus on in the story of a Paralympian is the hardship and not the athleticism...It’s always orphan girl, no legs, skier. It pisses me off... My legs are what created the opportunity for me to be an athlete. I’m not missing my legs and I guarantee you, 99% of Paralympians are not viewing themselves in the way that the media is portraying them."
This year Oksana is competing in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and we wish her and all athletes the best of luck!
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