Ukrainian-Born USA Paralympian Masters Skiing
The last thing Team USA Paralympian skier Oksana Masters wants people to do is to think about her disability when she is competing. Yes, she has gone through a lot being born in Ukraine, near the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. In-utero radiation poisoning caused her to be born with six toes on each foot, five webbed fingers on each hand, and no thumbs. But she doesn’t want people to focus on her amputated legs but on her amazing athletic talent.
In her Paralympic career, Masters has made the most of her opportunities, starting with winning a bronze in trunk and arms mixed double sculls with rowing partner and boyfriend Rob Jones in the 2012 London Games, the first one for the United States. Overall, she has been a six-time Paralympian, winning 10 medals, four golds, three silvers, and three bronzes, competing in rowing, cycling, cross-country skiing, Nordic skiing, and the biathlon.
“I love new challenges and pushing myself out of my comfort zone,” said Masters. “I truly believe with the right amount of support, hard work, dedication, and belief in oneself, anyone can make anything happen and make their dreams come to reality.”
While she has made a name for herself in the Paralympics, Masters wants to be treated like any other athlete.
“I feel like the theme that people focus on in the story of a Paralympian is the hardship and not the athleticism,” said Masters in an article on Self.com. “I guarantee you; 99 percent of Paralympians are not viewing themselves in the way that the media is portraying them. We’ve turned into inspiration porn in some ways. If people could see the behind-the-scenes conversation that we all have of how things are, you’re like, 'Oh, my God, here we go.' Everyone has hardships. Some are just more physical and obvious.”
“Her message is an important one,” said Alan Hubbard, NTI’s chief operating officer. “We know there is a stigma with Americans as people look at them differently, whether it be in athletics or in finding employment. When we see the Paralympians like Oskana, we are seeing athletes who are dedicated to their sport and who have worked hard to reach this elite level.” For more than 25 years, NTI, a nonprofit organization, has been helping Americans with disabilities find remote working opportunities with free job training and job placement services. You can register for free at www.ntiathome.org.
When the Beijing Paralympic Games are over, Masters will keep training and she hopes to compete or coach in Los Angeles Summer Paralympic Games in 2026, according to Self.com.
“If I’m not able to be there as an athlete,” said Masters, “I want to be there as a coach or somehow to be involved with helping the awareness grow. It’s going to be iconic.”
(For more than 25 years, NTI, a nonprofit organization, has been helping Americans with disabilities and their caregivers find remote-work jobs with free job training and placement services. To register, go to www.ntiathome.org.)
“I feel like the theme that people focus on in the story of a Paralympian is the hardship and not the athleticism. I guarantee you; 99 percent of Paralympians are not viewing themselves in the way that the media is portraying them.”