Master cruises to Paralympic Gold in a hand cycle time trial


Recently, I thought of the Paralympic gold medalist Oksana Masters. What do young Oksanas, who travel between Ukrainian orphanages, think of this adult version?

Young Oksana is always resilient, resolute and smart. After years of patience in an orphanage, he suffered from a birth defect due to the aftermath of Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear accident. The malnourished orphan was eventually adopted by her American mother.

The 32-year-old Masters are just as elastic, resolute and smart. This is a quality that has helped to lead the Paralympic sports across the Winter and Summer Olympics. She won a gold medal in the Hand Cycle Time Trial category in Tokyo on Tuesday. It was her ninth Career Paralympic medal and the third of the gold varieties.

“Everything rooted in my young self is also the reason why I was able to get to today’s place with the support of the many people behind me,” said the Masters. Road race at the Paralympics on Wednesday (late Tuesday in the US). “I hope my trip will help inspire the next young girl.”

Born in 1989 without legs and tibias of various sizes, it was a considerable journey. She also had webbed fingers, no thumbs, six toes on each foot, one kidney, and only part of her stomach.

Since I came from an area near Chernobyl, it had something to do with the 1986 nuclear accident. It is believed that her mother, who was born, lived in a contaminated area or ingested radiation-filled produce, leading to radiation poisoning in the uterus.

Five years later, the master amputated his left leg near his knee at 9 o’clock and his right leg in the same place.

Fast forward to the present: A few weeks ago she was preparing for Tokyo on a hand cycle around Champaign, Illinois. It is even more noteworthy given that the tumor was removed from the femur in late May. I was wondering if I was ready for this surgery.

She will do so. Not only that, she performed impressively in a race in Tokyo on Tuesday, winning by a margin of 1’46.48 seconds.

To get it back, she believes in elasticity, words she doesn’t swing lightly.

As a child, she traveled back and forth between three orphanages. She tried to stay strong, but often wondered — would anyone save her?

Someone would be the Gay Masters who saw a black-and-white photo of five-year-old Oksana in a Ukrainian adoption notebook.

love at first sight.

However, this process took more than two years after the Ukrainian government moratoriumed foreign adoption. Gay sent a care package full of teddy bears to young Oksana.

The package did not reach her.

I thought Oksana was alone again. That is, until one night, when the paperwork was finally approved, Gay arrived to take his new daughter back to Buffalo, New York.

They overcame many things together. Malnutrition (Mother weighs about 35 pounds when brought home and is healthy for a 3-year-old, but not for a person close to 8). The early language barrier (they used gestures to overcome it and point to phrases in books). Walk on your toes (how the Masters made up for her different leg heights). Surgery (to amputate her leg).

At the age of 13, the Masters discovered the boat. Pulling the oars and pushing them into the water released her, “healing from my past,” she once said.

It started her on the way to where she is now. Her first Paralympic medal was on a boat and in 2012 she won a bronze medal with her partner Rob Jones. She has won seven more medals in cross-country skiing and biathlon (2014 and 2018) and will be a favorite in the classification of hand cycling events in Tokyo. She is also training in Beijing, which will be about six months later.

“It’s not about medals,” said the Masters, who attended high school in Kentucky. “It’s nothing more than leaving a legacy, one example for the young girl to see.”

She recently partnered with Secret Deodorant as part of a campaign called “Watch Me.” This campaign encourages young girls to continue their sport with resources and support. New York City, Philadelphia, and Atlanta featured murals featuring Ashley Son (water polo), Cinenny Joyke (WNBA), Chelsea Wolf (BMX), Alex Morgan (women’s football), and the Masters.

“There is so much power when you can get something that you can see, see, and see.” OK, it’s here. It’s feasible, “said the Masters. “I always saw was about believing, and when you can see something, you are it and you can achieve it.”

Decision. Another important word for the master.

As a determination passed her through: A few weeks before the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, the Masters slipped on the ice in Montana where she was training and dislocated her right elbow. I did. She recovered in time to win five medals, including two gold medals at a cross-country skiing event.

After that, she was treated to fix her elbows.

“She overcame so much,” her mom said.

Gay recently moved to Champaign to get closer to Masters and Masters boyfriend Aaron Pike. Aaron Pike is a five-time Paralympic athlete who participates in a track event in Tokyo with a marathon. Gays headed to Colorado Springs, Colorado to attend a Toyota-sponsored viewing party because the Coronavirus restrictions did not actually allow fans to participate in the Paralympics.

“It’s just great,” Gay said after the race. “Last night she sent me a text message saying she wasn’t very sure. She thought she couldn’t finish the race. She could make it clear.”

Headstrong — Another word used by the Master. She keeps the goal in mind and chases it. She rarely refuses to answer, only what she has learned from her young self.

“Not long ago, I was honest about the little Oksana who returned to the orphanage … about keeping her and who she was and chasing those goals,” said the Masters. “Maybe you can’t physically dream of yourself or dream of the dream you want, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”

Pat Graham

Associated Press