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American swimmer Jessica Long crushes the competition. For her fifth appearance at the Paralympic Games, she won her 26th medal on Tuesday. His life has been a struggle since his birth. Born in Russia and suffering from a birth defect, she was amputated at the age of 18 months, after being adopted by an American couple.

American Jessica Long is a medal collector. After winning, last Saturday, in Tokyo, the final of the 200 meters medley, the swimming champion won, Tuesday, August 31, a 26e medal, finishing second in the 400-meter medley. It now has 14 gold medals, seven in silver, five in bronze, in its Paralympic record.

From Siberia to Maryland

The swimmer has shaped this winning mindset since her earliest childhood. Born under the name Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova in Bratsk, Eastern Siberia, she suffers from fibular hemimelia, a partial or complete absence of a fibula. Abandoned by her parents who were only teenagers at the time, she was then adopted by an American couple who lived in Maryland, at the age of 13 months. Five months later, she was amputated in order to be able to wear prostheses. In total, she has to undergo 25 operations.

Despite his handicap, his adoptive parents encouraged him to play sports, such as gymnastics, skating, climbing or even trampoline. But it is in swimming that she is the best. “When I’m in the pool, I don’t feel like I don’t have legs,” she said. “It was in this discipline that I was able to calm my anger and frustration. This is where I felt free and capable. My childhood was difficult and painful. There are times that I do not remember because I was undergoing so many operations, ”she described for the SwinSwam podcast.

The little girl escapes through swimming and quickly turns out to be gifted. In 2004, at just 12 years old, she was selected for the Athens Paralympic Games. She already has a series of victories and won three gold medals. Four years later in Beijing, she did it again with four new gold medals, one in silver and one in bronze. Year after year, the swimmer grows stronger. In London, she left with five gold medals, two in silver and one in bronze.

A year later, she also meets her biological parents, who then had no idea that she had become a great champion. “When I saw my Russian family for the first time, I wanted to let them know that I was not angry with them and that I was not sorry to have been put up for adoption,” she explained in a documentary broadcast during the Sochi Games in 2014. “I think it was very brave. I don’t know what I would have done if I had been in such a situation, at 16 years old, with a disabled child I knew I couldn’t care for. ”

Rio’s failure

Calm at the family level, Jessica Long then experiences disappointments. From Rio, five years ago, she brought home a gold, three silver and two bronze. An insufficient result according to her. A competitor at heart, the swimmer saw these Games as a failure and as “the most difficult thing” that she had ever had to live, as she confided on the official website of the Paralympic Games: “All that has was very hard. Honestly, there were a lot of dark days when I got back from Rio, days when I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on living. I fell into a very severe depression. “

After this experience, Jessica Long decides to focus on her psychological health. In October 2019, she got married. But very quickly his thirst for victories regains the upper hand. Despite the pandemic, she is resuming training for the Paralympic Games. His story becomes a source of inspiration. In February 2021, during the Super Bowl, one of the most watched sporting events in the world, a Toyota advertisement retracing his journey was broadcast during the final. “It was wonderful to be able to share my story and meet people who face the same challenges as me. And in a way, it’s my goal to be an inspiration to the next generation and to push her to become the people they want to be, “she said at the time.

More motivated than ever, the champion claims to have changed her mentality. She no longer has anything to prove to anyone. “I often hear people say ‘you have to win another gold medal’. I have no obligation to do it,” she said. “I train, I do what I have to do and I know the value of my work. I have found the pleasure of swimming again. I don’t want to end my career in Rio. pushed to swim in Tokyo. But I think I have to define what my accomplishments are. No one has to do it for me. “


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