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Jessica Long continues path as Paralympic trailblazer

Jessica Long of Baltimore, Md. has also made five trips to the Paralympic Games
Jessica Long of Baltimore, Md. has also made five trips to the Paralympic Games(Saulo Cruz | Wikipedia)
Published: Aug. 29, 2021 at 9:52 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - She’s been seen by millions on Super Bowl commercials, featured in Sports Illustrated, and has been interviewed countless times- as one of the world’s most-recognizable swimmers. Jessica Long of Baltimore, Md. has also made five trips to the Paralympic Games- six if you include her stint as sideline reporter at the Winter Paralympics in 2014.

Not only has she cemented herself as the American face of adaptive sports, but she has 25 medals on her resume. Her medal haul continued this week in Tokyo, as she took her fourth-straight gold in her signature swim, the Women’s 200m Individual Medley, along with a bronze in the 100m Backstroke.

On Leap Day 1992, Long was born in Russia with fibular hemimelia (original name Tatiana Kirillova), requiring both legs to be amputated 18 months later. Along the way, she was adopted by American parents Beth and Steven Long and was renamed Jessica.

At ten years old, she began her signature sport while swimming in her grandparents’ backyard pool. Two years later, she earned three golds at the Athens Paralympics- all while competing as a 12 year old. To put this into perspective- that was when this week’s other gold medal swimmers Anastasia Pagonis and Gia Pergolini were just a few months old!

Even though Long has gone on to accumulate medals in Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016, her world record track is even more impressive. 44 medals, 31 of them gold.

Even though the 29-year-old has enjoyed a legendary career and the glitzy appearances on the side, Jessica has also made many sacrifices as well. In this last year, she has lived and trained at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., which is 1,600 miles away from family, including her husband Lucas- whom she married in 2019. While not training, the two reside in Maryland.

The Baltimore swimmer could’ve won medal No. 26 in Sunday’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay. The team originally finished first in resounding fashion, but was soon disqualified because of an illegal exchange that happened before she was able to swim her turn. Had the result held, she would’ve been credited for moving the United States into the leading position in the third leg of the race.

While swimming her portion of the relay, NBCSN’s color commentator Michelle Konkoly (also a 2016 gold medalist herself) enthusiastically stated “Jessica Long doing Jessica Long things!”.

The Baltimore native will have a chance to do more “Jessica Long” things Tuesday night CST at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre as she suits for the Women’s 100m Breaststroke- an event where she has already claimed three Paralympic medals (gold in London, silver in Rio, bronze in Beijing).

Coverage can be seen on NBC’s various platforms, which include NBCSN, the Olympic Channel, NBCOlympics.com, and KCBD-TV.

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