Amazing Ladies in 2019: Paralympian Jessica Long

There are a lot of amazing ladies out there paving the way for a better tomorrow. They inspire us, they give us hope, and they galvanize us to make changes of our own. This week we are highlighting some of the amazing ladies of our day. Next up? Jessica Long. 

Jessica Long, 27, had her lower legs amputated as a child. But obviously, that doesn't stop her. She's a Paralympian and a world record holder in swimming. 

Image via Glamour

 

Jessica Long was born in Serbia and was orphaned as an infant. She was adopted when she was one, and shortly before she turned two, her fibular hemimelia necessitated that her legs be amputated below the knee. As a child, she learned to walk with a prostethesis, and though she was often discouraged from sports, she threw all of her energy into athletics like cheerleading, rock climbing, gymnastics, ice skating and biking. Nowadays though, she's known for swimming. She learned to swim in her grandparent's pool and joined her first competitive team in 2002. The next year, she was selected as Maryland's Female Swimmer of the Year with a Disability. 

Image via Human Interest Group

 

From there, she focused on training for swimming. In 2004, at age 12, she joined the U.S. Paralympic team. She was the youngest competitor on the whole team. That was also the year that she won her first gold medal, beating the world record holder by only .19 seconds. In 2006, she did even better. That year, she broke 18 world records. In Durban, South Africa, she won nine gold medals. And she kept going. 

Image via Women Fitness

 

For a long time, Long (no pun intended) used swimming as a way to escape her problems. But the older she got, the more she realized that swimming forced her to acknowledge her struggles instead of ignoring them. When she was younger, she used to be uncomfortable wearing shorts or showing her prostehsis. But the stronger she got, the less she cared about what other people thought. She didn't care if they didn't know that she was a double-amputee. She knew that she had stength beyong that. 

Image via Sports Illustrated

 

“I used to say that swimming was my escape, but that’s not accurate," Long says in her book, Unsinkable. "Swimming forced me to deal with the things I wanted to escape. It helped me work through a lot of feelings and frustrations, because I had hours under water just to swim laps and think. I had the freedom to be alone with myself, completely unlimited by my circumstances or my body while doing what I loved. I think that’s why I took to swimming with such ease. All my life I have had to fight to catch up with people. But not in the water. That’s the one place where everyone else is trying to keep up with me!”

Long credits swimming for her resiliency. The sport helped her work through personal problems that had nothing to do with swimming as she realized that she had the strength to fail and continue pushing forward. She's written a book, Unsinkable, about her journey. She's training for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo where she will probably break more world records and win more medals. She has 13 gold medals already, so thatg's a good start. For now, she's working hard every day, and, as she says, forgetting that she's "disabled." Pretty amazing? We think so.