U.S. Paralympic Swimmer Jessica Long’s Biography: In Her Own Words
Jessica Long is a Russian-American Paralympic swimmer. Born with fibular hemimelia, Long had her lower legs amputated at 18 months old. She has won 23 Paralympic medals in the S8, SB7, and SM3 category events.
JESSICA LONG BIOGRAPHY: EARLY LIFE AND ADOPTION
Jessica Long was born on February 29, 1992 (Jessica Long age: 29). Long, originally named Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova, was born in Brantz, Russia, to parents aged 16 and 17. Unequipped to deal with her disability, her parents put Long up for adoption. At 13 months old, Long was adopted by Americans Beth and Steve Long. She started her new life in Baltimore, Maryland. The Longs also adopted her brother, Joshua, from the same orphanage at the same time. At 18 months, her legs were amputated in order to fit her for prosthetics, which would give her more mobility. This was the first of 25 surgeries Long had to go through as she grew up. Her adoptive parents encouraged her to try sports, and she especially excelled at swimming.
Long has five adoptive siblings – Joshua, Steven, Amanda, Hannah and Grace.
JESSICA LONG BIOGRAPHY: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW ON CHALLENGES FACED
Long spoke exclusively with uInterview in 2012 about some of the struggles she’s faced as a Paralympic athlete.
“I think with being a Paralympic athlete, we’re going to face challenges,” she said. “We already have our whole lives. For me, it’s been my legs, with surgeries throughout growing up.”
Long endured an astounding 25 surgeries throughout her childhood and career as her body grew. Despite the magnitude of her trials, the Paralympian had a message of positivity from her experiences.
“I’ve had many surgeries on my legs, many things that have come in my way, blocked my goal… You just have to overcome them, and still have faith, and continue to push on.”
The swimmer, who has won 23 medals at the Paralympic Games, described how she had appendicitis a week before the Paralympic trials in 2008.
“There’s just so many different things that can come, and you never know if anything can happen,” Long said. “It’s really just looking past it and understanding that it’s all part of a plan.”
Check out the full interview at the top of the page.
JESSICA LONG BIOGRAPHY: CAREER
Long joined her first competitive team in 2002. In 2003, she was named Maryland Swimming’s Female Swimmer of the Year with a Disability. In 2004, Long made her Paralympic debut at the Athens Paralympic Games. Despite being just 12 years old and having only swum competitively for two years, she won three gold medals (the 100-meter freestyle, the 400-meter freestyle, and the 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay.
Long broke her first two world records in 2005 during the U.S. Paralympics Open Swimming Championships, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She won five gold medals and a bronze medal and was named swimmer of the meet.
She broke two more world records in the 100-meter butterfly and the 200-meter individual medley in the 2006 Blaze Sports Georgia Open. Also in 2006, Long competed in the International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships in Durban, South Africa. She won nine gold medals in seven individual events and two relays and broke five world records. She received several honors that year, including the U.S. Olympic Committee Paralympian of the Year, the AAU James E. Sullivan Award (of which she was the first Paralympian recipient), Disabled Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World magazine, and USA Swimming’s Disability Swimmer of the Year. For a second time, she broke both the 100-meter butterfly and 200-meter individual medley world records – this time at the Belgian Open.
In the 2007 Spring Can-Am Swimming Championships in Montreal, Canada, Long broke the world record in the 200-meter backstroke, 400-meter individual medley and the 800-meter freestyle. She broke another three world records (50-meter butterfly, 200-meter freestyle and 1500-meter freestyle) in GTAC Disability Open at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She won first place in six individual events at the 2007 U.S. Paralympics Open Swimming Championships, coming in second in the 50-meter freestyle. Also in 2007, Long was the recipient of the ESPN Best Female Athlete with a Disability ESPY Award and was selected for a second time as USA Swimming’s Disability Swimmer of the Year.
In 2008, Long broke her 18th world record in the S8 100-meter butterfly at the Can-Am Championships in Victoria. Later that year, Long competed in the Beijing Paralympic Games, where she won four gold medals (breaking three more world records), a silver medal and a bronze medal. She was also the 2008 recipient of the Juan Antonio Samaranch IOC Disabled Athlete Award.
In 2009, Long won seven gold medals in the Spring Can-Am Championships in Gresham, Oregon. In the Summer Can-Am Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, Long again won seven gold medals and broke the world record for the S8 100-meter breaststroke. In the 2009 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming World Championships 25m in Rio de Janeiro, Long won a staggering four gold medals, each of which was a world-record-breaking swim. She also won four silver medals.
At the 2010 Can-Am National Championships in San Antonio, Texas, Long won six gold medals. She followed up this performance with seven gold medals and two new world records in International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming World Championships in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
2011 was a big year for the already incredibly accoladed swimmer. She won nine gold medals and broke four world records in the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships in Edmonton, Canada. Long followed that up with six gold medals in the Can-Am Open Swimming Championship in La Mirada, California. For the third time, Swimming World magazine named her Disabled Swimmer of the Year.
Back at her third Paralympic Games, this time in London, Long won five gold medals, two silver medals, and a bronze medal. She was a recipient for the second time of the ESPN Best Female Athlete with a Disability ESPY Award and was also named U.S. Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee.
Not slowing down, Long won three gold medals in the 2013 U.S. Paralympics Spring Swimming Nationals/Can-Am. She also competed in the 2013 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming World Championships in Montreal, winning three gold medals (breaking the world record in the 100-meter butterfly), a silver medal and a bronze medal. She received her third ESPN Best Female Athlete with a Disability ESPY Award.
Soon after her 22nd birthday, Long won four gold medals at the 2014 U.S. Paralympics Spring Swimming Nationals/Can-Am in Miami, Florida. Later that year, she won six gold medals and two silver medals at the Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in Pasadena, California. She was also named the 2014 Para-Swimming Female Athlete of the Year by the swimming news website SwimSwam.
Thirteen years into her competitive swimming career, Long won four gold medals and three silver medals in the 2015 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. She was also selected for the fourth time as the USA Swimming’s Disability Swimmer of the Year.
Returning to Rio de Janeiro in 2016 for the Paralympic Summer Games, Long won one gold medal, three silver medals, and two bronze medals.
In June of 2021, the US announced that Long would be one of the 34 Paralympians competing in the delayed 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo.
JESSICA LONG BIOGRAPHY: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW ON DAILY RITUALS
Long spoke exclusively with uInterview about her daily routine in preparation for the Paralympic Games. Long said she wakes up early, starting her day with training in the pool from seven to nine a.m. Afterward, she eats breakfast with the team.
Her next step is “dry land abs,” which are important for swimmers, and then “stretching after the morning workout.” She breaks up this rigorous morning with a nap. The next event is weight training for an hour, followed by another two-hour practice. She finishes the day off with yoga or pilates, before heading to bed around 9 p.m.
Long explained that in order to keep up with this grueling regimen, “you really gotta love it. If you don’t love it, it can feel like the day goes on forever.” Luckily, Long assured uInterview, “I love it, I love what I do, and I love getting stronger every day, and just feeling a difference.”
Long also described the rituals she has on race days to get in the right state of mind.
“Each race is different, each race I have a plan. Certain warm-ups, certain this, certain that,” she said. “For me, something that my team and I… do a lot of is mental prep.” Mental prep, according to Long, is a combination of visualizing and deep breathing techniques that allows them to calm down and concentrate more deeply on their performance.
“We each have our own little rituals, and for me, I love visualizing my race,” Long explained. “There are times where I put in my headphones and I’m just dancing around, visualizing doing the butterfly.”
JESSICA LONG BIOGRAPHY: PERSONAL LIFE
In 2013, Long made the decision to travel to Russia to meet her birth parents, Natalia and Oleg Valtyshev. The two had ended up getting married after putting Long up for adoption and had three more children together, one of whom was diagnosed with infantile cerebral paralysis. Her parents had no idea of her athletic achievements and worldwide fame.
On October 11 of 2019, Long married Lucas Winters, who she had been dating for four years.
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