Sports for athletes with disabilities have existed for more than a century, and Paralympics has also been around for a while.
There have been several athletes who have not let their handicap bar them from going for the win. One such inspirational athlete with disabilities is Jessica Tatiana Long, a Russian born American Paralympic swimmer based in Baltimore, Maryland. Jessica Long has always competed in the S8, SB7 and SM8 category swimming events and has held several world records, as well as winning multiple gold medals.
Jessica was born on February 29, 1992 with fibular hemimelia which resulted in her lower legs being amputated at 18 months. However, she quickly learned to walk using prosthesis, she began her Paralympic career at age 12.
Jessica has won a total of twenty-three Paralympic medals. Before joining competitive swimming in 2002, she began her swimming journey in her grandparent’s swimming pool, as well as being involved in other sports such as gymnastics, ice skating, cheerleading, biking, and rock climbing.
Jessica was selected in 2003 as Maryland’s Female Swimmer of the Year with a disability; however, she entered the international swimming stage in 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece where she won three gold medals. She was the youngest competitor only aged 12 years old on the US Paralympic team. One of the gold medals was for the 100-meter freestyle in 0.19 seconds beating the then world record holder Israeli Keren Leibovitch. She further had 18 world record-breaking performances in 2006 at the International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships in Durban, South Africa winning nine gold medals. She participated in two relays and seven individual medleys where she held five world records that resulted in her being known outside the world paralympic circles. During the same year, she became the first athlete with disabilities to be selected as the AAU’s James E. Sullivan Award winner, where she was honored as the United States Olympic Committee’s Paralympian of the Year, as well as appearing in the Swimming World Magazine Disabled Swimmer of the Year.
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