The 2012 Paralympics are almost here and while many of us have been waiting all summer for the games to arrive, most of the participants have been anticipating it their whole lives. So before you start rooting for team USA, read further to see why the athletes that represent us are an inspiration to us all.
Originally from a small village in the Ukraine, Oksana Masters was exposed to radiation which badly disfigured her legs at birth, requiring a bilateral above-the-knee amputation. From that time, she was in an orphanage often going days without eating. “Growing up in a very poor orphanage in Ukraine, there wasn’t much food,” Masters told ESPN Magazine (Body Edition). “I can go days without eating if I don’t think about food. Your mind, to protect itself learns not to pay attention to that hunger feeling.” At age seven, Masters was adopted by a single mother and moved to Louisville, Kentucky. She began adaptive rowing in the 8th grade and since age 17 has been training for the 2012 Paralympic Games that will take place from August 29-Sept. 9. Her will, coupled with an indefatigable upper body (which she bares in the magazine) propels her as she represents the US along with her partner in the rowing mixed doubles.
“It’s London,” the 23-year-old Masters ecstatically told a local Louisville television station recently. “It’s the games and it’s the big goal I’ve been training for, for six years.” She with her rowing partner, Rob Jones, who is also a double amputee, received the gold medal at the World Cup Olympic Qualifying Regatta in Belgrade, Serbia after beating Brazil by almost seven seconds and coming in first place for adaptive rowing in the Trunk and Arms Division.
Jones is a US Marine who was serving in Afghanistan when he came across an IED (improvised explosive device) that resulted in his becoming a bilateral above the knee amputee as well. For years “Team Bad Company” (Masters and Jones) have been training six days a week in pursuit of their dream and now that the games are only a month or so away their excitement is almost palpable.
“I’m so excited and I get goose bumps thinking about it,” said Masters. “Obviously, I smile like a big cheesy kid.”