BEIJING (REUTERS) – Most athletes spend a lifetime perfecting one discipline but American Oksana Masters’ talent and resilience earned her a 12th Olympic medal across Winter and Summer Games at the Beijing Paralympics on Sunday (March 6).
Silver in the long-distance sitting event in cross-country skiing was a second podium in two days for the 32-year-old, who took gold in the biathlon sitting sprint amid emotional scenes at the Zhangjiakou National Biathlon Centre.
“I was trying to upgrade it from Sochi 2014 when I got a silver, I was chasing that gold medal. This is the one race that I was really looking forward to, but I’m so proud of myself,” Masters said.
The American finished behind China’s Yang Hongqiong and the host nation’s Li Panpan secured bronze.
“I raced this 100 per cent honest, clean and in the right space and I just did everything I could, and I am so happy to bring home a medal for Team USA,” added Masters.
Ukraine-born Masters won two gold medals in cycling at the Tokyo Paralympics last year, adding to her rowing bronze from London 2012.
What made her performance in Tokyo even more impressive was that Masters had been diagnosed with a tumour in her leg during her preparations for the Games but she underwent an operation and made a swift recovery.
Masters was born with severe physical defects believed to have been caused by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and spent her early years in orphanages.
Her life changed at age seven when she was adopted by an American woman, Gay Masters, and taken to the United States, where both her legs had to be amputated above the knee.
Masters’ adoptive mother was able to celebrate her silver medal in a video call.
“I owe a lot to my mum,” she said after Saturday’s gold before dedicating the win to the people of Ukraine, which has been invaded by Russia.
“It is for Team Ukraine and Ukrainian people. I’m so proud to be Ukrainian, to be American and represent both and that’s the power of sports that you can represent so much more than just one thing.”
Masters can add to her medal haul when she competes in four more events in biathlon and cross-country skiing.
“I’m definitely excited for the rest of the week because I’ve got some unfinished business,” she said.