Prior to the 2020 Paralympic Games, Oksana Masters had already proven himself as a versatile athlete. Her performance in Tokyo just underscored just how versatile she really is.
On August 30, Masters won gold (45: 40.05) in the women’s road cycling time trial in the H4-5 standings, finishing ahead of Sun Bianbian of China, who won silver with a time of 47: 26.53 and Jennette Jansen of the Netherlands, who took bronze in 48: 45.69. (H4-5 is a sport class for physical disabilities.) The victory marks nine Paralympic medals in total for the multisport athlete: the 32-year-old has won medals in rowing, biathlon, cross-country skiing and now in cycling on road.
The Masters gold medal performance allows him to enter an exclusive club of athletes who have won gold at the Paralympic Summer and Winter Games. According to NBC Sports, she is only the fourth American woman and the sixth American in total to accomplish this feat.
Masters was born in Ukraine in 1989, just three years after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster. She developed significant birth defects in utero to her hands, feet and legs, believed to be due to radiation her birth mother was exposed to, according to the athlete’s personal website.
After bouncing around three different orphanages, she was adopted by a woman in Buffalo, New York. As a child and young adolescent, Masters had both legs amputated and multiple reconstructive surgeries on both hands.
Then, at the age of 13, she tried rowing and found that it gave her âa new sense of freedom and control,â as she explained on her website. She went on to win a bronze medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games with her rowing partner Rob Jones; the duo won the first-ever American medal in mixed pairs trunk and arm, according to Team USA.
Then she started skiing and won two medals (silver and bronze) in Nordic skiing at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games. According to Team USA, Masters started cycling as a recovery activity after suffering a back injury during of his performance there. She went to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games for road cycling, although she was unable to clinch a medal. Masters went on to win an armful of medals at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games, his first gold medals, both in cross-country skiing, as well as two silver medals in biathlon and one bronze in another cross-country ski event. .
Masters turned to her experience in Rio, where she missed the podium, to push her towards her gold medal in Tokyo.
“The day after I crossed the finish line at Rio 2016 in fifth place … I knew exactly what I would have liked to do. I knew what I had done wrong and I wanted to fix it,” said Masters said after his victory in Tokyo, according to Olympics.com. âKnowing that I have fixed my mistakes since Rio and that I am growing as a cyclist. It’s incredible.”
Her redemption is all the more impressive given that she had to undergo unexpected leg surgery just 100 days before the Tokyo Games. In an Instagram post last June, Masters said she still hopes to make it to Tokyo.
“There’s still a little crack in the door to get to Tokyo, and you better believe I’m determined to walk through that little crack from Minnesota in the US Para-cycling Trials,” she wrote. .
Because of this setback, she never expected to win, according to Olympics.com. âI was just trying to hold on and fight for third place,â she said. “I never thought, in a million years, that I would fight for a gold medal.”
The Masters is not yet over in Tokyo, he still has two chances to expand his collection of medals. On September 1, she will compete for a potential 10th Paralympic medal in the women’s H5 road race, then again the next day in the US H1-5 mixed relay team. After the end of Tokyo, she intends to compete again in the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, which will only take place in six months.