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    Oksana Masters

    Ones to watch
    USA USA Para Nordic skiing 19 June 1989

    Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine

    female Para Nordic skier Oksana Masters


    Human Interest
    Data Value
    Impairment Information
    Type of Impairment Limb deficiency
    Origin of Impairment Congenital
    Classification LW12
    Further Personal Information
    Family Partner Aaron Pike
    Residence Champaign, IL, USA
    Occupation Athlete, Student
    Languages English
    Sport Specific Information
    When and where did you begin this sport? She took up Nordic skiing in 2013 in Breckenridge, CO, United States of America.
    Why this sport? "Cross-country skiing was an accident. I love winter, I love snow, I lived in Buffalo, I am from Ukraine where it gets cold in winter, so it is in my blood. A cross-country skiing coach heard that I wanted to try it and gave me that opportunity. A few weeks later I got to go out on the snow and try it, and I fell in love with it."
    International Debut
    Year 2013
    Competing for United States
    General Interest
    Nicknames Roxy, Oops-Ana Grace, Mustafa, Oks (Facebook profile, 16 Apr 2020; teamusa.org, 14 Nov 2013; leoweekly.com, 25 May 2011)
    Hobbies Swimming, rowing, working out, travel. (teamusa.org, 01 Jun 2017; oksanamastersusa.com, 2017)
    Memorable sporting achievement Winning two gold medals at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. (Athlete, 29 Mar 2018)
    Most influential person in career Her adoptive mother Gay, Nordic skiing coach Eileen Carey, rowing coach Bob Hurley. (Athlete, 29 Mar 2018)
    Injuries She fractured her right elbow three weeks prior to the start of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. At the time she was told she would not be able to compete in Pyeongchang, but she recovered in time to win five medals. After the Games she underwent two operations, with the second one taking place in October 2018. She returned to competition in December 2018 at the World Cup event in Vuokatti, Finland. (paralympic.org, 17 Dec 2018; teamusa.org, 26 Apr 2018; pyeongchang2018.com, 10 Mar 2018)

    She experienced back problems in 2014. (oksanamastersusa.com, 2017)
    Sporting philosophy / motto "To be irreplaceable one must always be different." (Twitter profile, 02 Jan 2021)
    Awards and honours She received the 2020 Laureus Award for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability. (paralympic.org, 18 Feb 2020)

    She was named 2019 Team USA's Female Paralympic Athlete of the Year. (courier-journal.com, 22 Nov 2019)

    In 2018 she was named Individual Sportswoman of the Year by the Women's Sports Foundation in New York City, NY, United States of America. (paralympic.org, 23 Oct 2018)

    She was named Team USA's Female Paralympic Athlete of the Games after winning five medals at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. (teamusa.org, 26 Apr 2018)

    She was named 2018 Women's Sports Foundation Athlete of the Year. (Facebook page, 26 Dec 2020)

    She was flag bearer for the United States of America at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. (teamusa.org, 16 Mar 2018)

    She was named the 2017 Para Nordic Skier of the Year by online publication FasterSkier. (fasterskier.com, 10 Apr 2017)

    She was named the 2012 United States [US] Rowing Female Athlete of the Year. (teamusa.org, 14 Nov 2013)
    Other sports She has competed at the Paralympic Games in rowing, road cycling, cross-country skiing and biathlon. She participated in road cycling at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, and competed in biathlon and cross-country skiing at the Paralympic Winter Games in 2014 and 2018. She also won a bronze medal in rowing at the 2012 Games in London. (Facebook page, 26 Dec 2020; paralympic.org, 2017)
    Milestones She became the first athlete representing the United States of America to win a gold medal in Para biathlon at the world championships when she placed first in the 6km sprint at the 2017 edition in Finsterau, Germany. (SportsDeskOnline, 05 Dec 2018; skitrax.com, 12 Feb 2017)
    Famous relatives Her partner Aaron Pike competed for the United States of America in Para athletics at the Paralympic Games in 2012 and 2016. He also competed in Para biathlon and Para cross-county skiing at the Paralympic Winter Games in 2014 and 2018. (bbc.co.uk, 14 Jan 2020; SportsDeskOnline, 14 Jan 2020)
    Ambitions To win the Para cycling road race and time trial at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (bbc.co.uk, 14 Jan 2020)
    Impairment She was born with tibial hemimelia, which meant her legs were different lengths and did not have shinbones. She also had five webbed fingers without a thumb, six toes on each foot and only one kidney. Both of her legs were amputated above the knee, one at age nine and the other at age 14. (uoflphysicians.com, 06 Mar 2014; espn.go.com, 11 Jul 2012)
    Other information ROLE MODEL
    She said she struggled with her self-confidence as a child and believes children with impairments need more role models. "It's the end of the world if you're having a bad hair day or you have a pimple on your face for school picture day, let alone if you have prosthetic legs and hands that are hard to cover up. Then society has put this label on you, even though you don't see yourself as 'disabled'. That's something that's put on you. I don't want the next generation of young girls and kids to grow up not having that person to look up to and want to aspire to. Every kid had a picture of Michael Jordan on their wall. Why can't it be a normal thing for that to be someone who has had an accident or was born with a disability?" (bbc.co.uk, 14 Jan 2020)

    She was born in Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine, located just a few hours from Chernobyl, the scene of a nuclear accident in 1986. Her birth mother's exposure to radiation from living nearby is believed to be a factor in Masters' impairment. She was abandoned at an orphanage after she was born, and was adopted by Gay Masters at age seven and taken to the United States of America. "Where I was from, they had radiation leaks. A cop [policeman] in my village would go around and say, 'Lock up,' and you boarded your windows and doors and didn't come out for a day or two to let the radiation die down. I was in a very poor orphanage so there wasn't much food. There was never enough to satisfy the hunger. I don't remember much because many memories are blocked out. I always knew that I would have a mother, I just had to wait." (uatoday.tv, 30 Oct 2015; uoflphysicians.com, 06 Mar 2014; espn.go.com, 11 Jul 2012)

    She spent over seven years in the orphanage system in Ukraine as a child, where she said she was subjected to physical abuse, leaving her with numerous scars. She said she has come to be proud of her scars as a symbol of her journey. "A scar is a story that happens to you. You don't own a scar, you survive a scar. I want to own my story. That's something I've begun to discover as I've grown older, this desire I have to reclaim my body, to reclaim my life as a story that only I get to tell. To say the hard part out loud, [that] I was abused. To define it, not let it define me. Over the course of my adulthood, that desire has manifested itself in all types of ways. It has manifested itself in a love of tattoos. Tattoos, unlike scars, you get to choose. And each tattoo I have is full of so many of my own choices. Each of them represents such an important part of me. When I get a new tattoo, it's like me saying, 'I want my story told in this colour, and this size, in this location, that looks like this, and reminds me of this, and this, and this'. So, where my actual scars might reflect these moments of powerlessness, my new scars, the way I choose to mark my body up with tattoos, I feel this deep purpose in it. I feel the most amazing sense of self." (theplayerstribune.com, 29 Dec 2020)

    The biographies are regularly updated and new biographies of other Paralympic sports will be added frequently. If you find any mistake in a biography, please contact Rafael Maranhao, IPC Public Relations Senior Manager, at rafael.maranhao@paralympic.org.

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