Paralympic swimming takes a lot of endurance, experience and strength so when a 12 year old girl brought home 3 gold medals from the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, Greece, the world took notice of her. Jessica Long, now 24, has been capturing gold and breaking world records ever since.
Born in Russia, Jessica was born with fibular hemimelia; she didn’t have fibulas, ankles, heels and most of the other bones in her feet. She was given to an orphanage by her birth parents and at 13 months old, Beth and Steve Long from Maryland, adopted her. At 18 months old, her legs were amputated below the knees so she could be fitted for prosthetic legs and learn how to walk. She was up walking 2 weeks post surgery.
Jessica spent many hours in her grandparents’ pool, pretending she was a mermaid. She felt comfortable in the water. On land, she became involved in many sports, including gymnastics, basketball, cheerleading, ice skating, biking, running, and rock climbing. She adapted to any activity she immersed herself in but she wanted to go into gymnastics. However, due to the damage gymnastics was doing to her knees and prosthetic legs, her parents encouraged to follow swimming instead. Now she trains up to 6 hours a day with swimming, spin classes, yoga, pilates and weightlifting.
In 2011 Jessica won nine gold medals (including seven individual) and setting four world records at the Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in Canada. In an article written after that championship performance for http://www.usaswimming.org/ by Correspondent Bob Schaller (10/4/2011), Jessica was asked what she thought of the amazing path of her life. She replied:
“I truly believe this is part of God’s plan for my life. I believe I was born to swim, regardless of whether I had legs or not – and of course I don’t as it turned out. Before swimming, I never understood why I didn’t have legs – you can’t explain that to a kid who is 4 or 6 years old. But then I started swimming, and it all made sense. Swimming has showed me that if I am determined that I can do anything.”
She was also asked about being called “disabled” –
“I don’t see myself as being disabled. I don’t think I’ll ever see myself that way. It’s just something I have to deal with, just like everyone else has something in their life they have to overcome or deal with on a daily basis; it’s not a handicap, it’s what makes us unique, makes us who we are. How we deal with it, how we get passed it, how we make ourselves and those around us better, that’s how we are defined.”
Jessica will be going to Rio this September for the 2016 Paralympic Games. We look forward to her performances!
VIDEO ” I AM A PARALYMPIC SWIMMER ” (MODE.COM)
“When you feel like giving up remember why you started in the first place.”
Jessica Long – Inspiring spirit, talent and strength
Join Jessica on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jessica-Long-17959176479/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaLong @JessicaLong