Oksana Masters becomes Summer and Winter Paralympic champion

Oksana Masters
Oksana Masters celebrates her title with silver medalist Sun Bianbian (left) and the Netherlands’ Jennette Jansen (right), who finished third. Photograph: Toru Hanai/Getty Images

Oksana Masters cruised to a gold medal on Tuesday in the H4-5 hand-cycle time trial in Tokyo. It was her ninth career Paralympics medal and third gold.

She is one of just 28 athletes to have won gold at both the Winter and Summer Paralympics. In previous, she won two golds in cross-country skiing at the 2018 Paralympics in Pyeongchang.

The 32-year-old was shuffled between Ukrainian orphanages as a child and had birth defects thought to be from the aftermath of Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear accident. She was eventually adopted by her American mother, Gay Masters.

It’s been quite a journey for Masters. She was born in 1989 with legs that were different sizes and missing shinbones. She also had webbed fingers, no thumbs, six toes on each foot, one kidney, and only parts of her stomach. Tuesday’s victory is all the more remarkable given she had a tumor removed from her femur in late May a surgery that had some wondering if she would be ready.

A few weeks before the 2018 Winter Paralympics, Masters slipped on the ice in Montana, where she was training, and dislocated her right elbow. She recovered in time to win five medals.

Her first Paralympic Games medal was in rowing, a bronze in 2012 with partner Rob Jones. She would capture seven more medals in cross-country skiing and biathlon (2014 and 2018). She’s also training for next year’s Winter Games in Beijing, too.

Masters will have another opportunity for gold in Tokyo. She competes in the road race on Wednesday.