Three-time Paralympic medalist Oksana Masters is set to compete in cross-country skiing and biathlon in the upcoming Winter Games in PyeongChang.
While most athletes had to overcome a great deal of physical struggle just to reach their competing form, Masters had to overcome her horrific childhood as an orphan in Ukraine with severe birth defects, an amputation, and having to say goodbye to a sport she loved because of a terrible injury.
“I was born in the Ukraine, on June 19, 1989, with severely deformed legs– my left leg was six inches shorter than my right and I was missing weight-bearing bones [in both]. I also had six webbed toes on each foot, five webbed fingers on each hand, no thumbs, one kidney, and no enamel in my teeth,” the Paralympian shared in an interview with Cosmopolitan.
“I was put up for adoption… I bounced around three orphanages growing up. Some nights I would go to sleep hungry because food was limited. I spent most of my days praying I would be adopted, and that I’d have my very own mom,” she recalled.
Fortunately, her prayers were answered as Masters was adopted in 1997 by Gay Masters and was brought to the United States.
She was then diagnosed with tibial hemimelia, so she had no choice but to have both her legs amputated.
Masters struggled emotionally as a teenager and found emotional relief doing adaptive rowing.
“A lot of suppressed memories from when I was younger living in orphanages surfaced during that time and rowing gave me an outlet to release all of that pain. It saved my life,” Masters shared.
Masters won a medal in the 2012 London Paralympics but had no choice but to end her career after a severe lower back injury.
Knowing that she cannot be idle, Masters found skiing and exerted all effort to be good enough to compete.
“I know I’ve always had the option to feel sorry for myself, but a theme of my life has definitely been just pushing through the bull***. I really wish people did that more,” Masters said.