Oksana Masters is just returning to competition after an injury that jeopardised her participation at PyeongChang 2018. The US Nordic skier prefers to take it slowly, which is why she decided not to take part in all events at the 2018-19 World Cup circuit.
Masters still managed to win three golds, three silvers and one bronze.
Only weeks before the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, she dislocated her elbow and thought all her hard work would be for nothing.
With the support of her team and closest people, she recovered just in time to compete in South Korea. Despite feeling constant pain, Masters won double gold in the women’s cross-country middle distance and sprint sitting.
She followed that up with silver in the biathlon sprint and long distance, and bronze in the cross-country long distance.
In 2017, an impressive performance saw her power to the top of the podium four times at the World Championships in Finsterau, Germany - and a sweep of the cross-country events.
It also included a gold in biathlon, something which Masters herself said she could not quite believe having previously struggled with shooting. A win of the cross-country World Cup rounded off an excellent season in addition to a top three finish in biathlon.
Originally from Ukraine, Masters’ well-documented life story includes being exposed to radiation from the infamous Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion and being sent to live in an orphanage after being born with limb impairments.
Masters started rowing when she was 14 years old after being adopted by a US woman. Soon after her bronze medal-winning performance at London 2012 with rowing partner Rob Jones, which propelled her to national fame and an appearance in ESPN’s The Body Issue, Masters decided a change of sport was needed and set about learning Nordic skiing.
In 2013, she was named to the US Paralympics Nordic Skiing Development Team.
After an incredibly successful first season on the World Cup circuit in 2013-14, finishing as world No.6, Masters got her ticket to Sochi 2014.
She went on to beat the likes of world No.1 Andrea Eskau of Germany and world No.2 - Norway’s Mariann Marthinsen - to claim silver in the cross-country long distance.
She also won bronze in the cross-country middle distance.
To round-off a whirlwind couple of seasons, Masters got the chance to compete at home at the 2015 World Championships, where she won a silver and bronze medal in cross-country events.
Further personal information
Sport specific information
She experienced back problems in 2014. (oksanamastersusa.com, 2017)
She was named 2019 Team USA's Female Paralympic Athlete of the Year. (courier-journal.com, 22 Nov 2019)
In 2018 she was named Individual Sportswoman of the Year by the Women's Sports Foundation in New York City, NY, United States of America. (paralympic.org, 23 Oct 2018)
She was named Team USA's Female Paralympic Athlete of the Games after winning five medals at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. (teamusa.org, 26 Apr 2018)
She was named 2018 Women's Sports Foundation Athlete of the Year. (Facebook page, 26 Dec 2020)
She was flag bearer for the United States of America at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. (teamusa.org, 16 Mar 2018)
She was named the 2017 Para Nordic Skier of the Year by online publication FasterSkier. (fasterskier.com, 10 Apr 2017)
She was named the 2012 United States [US] Rowing Female Athlete of the Year. (teamusa.org, 14 Nov 2013)
She said she struggled with her self-confidence as a child and believes children with impairments need more role models. "It's the end of the world if you're having a bad hair day or you have a pimple on your face for school picture day, let alone if you have prosthetic legs and hands that are hard to cover up. Then society has put this label on you, even though you don't see yourself as 'disabled'. That's something that's put on you. I don't want the next generation of young girls and kids to grow up not having that person to look up to and want to aspire to. Every kid had a picture of Michael Jordan on their wall. Why can't it be a normal thing for that to be someone who has had an accident or was born with a disability?" (bbc.co.uk, 14 Jan 2020)
UKRAINE TO UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
She was born in Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine, located just a few hours from Chernobyl, the scene of a nuclear accident in 1986. Her birth mother's exposure to radiation from living nearby is believed to be a factor in Masters' impairment. She was abandoned at an orphanage after she was born, and was adopted by Gay Masters at age seven and taken to the United States of America. "Where I was from, they had radiation leaks. A cop [policeman] in my village would go around and say, 'Lock up,' and you boarded your windows and doors and didn't come out for a day or two to let the radiation die down. I was in a very poor orphanage so there wasn't much food. There was never enough to satisfy the hunger. I don't remember much because many memories are blocked out. I always knew that I would have a mother, I just had to wait." (uatoday.tv, 30 Oct 2015; uoflphysicians.com, 06 Mar 2014; espn.go.com, 11 Jul 2012)
SCARS AND TATTOOS
She spent over seven years in the orphanage system in Ukraine as a child, where she said she was subjected to physical abuse, leaving her with numerous scars. She said she has come to be proud of her scars as a symbol of her journey. "A scar is a story that happens to you. You don't own a scar, you survive a scar. I want to own my story. That's something I've begun to discover as I've grown older, this desire I have to reclaim my body, to reclaim my life as a story that only I get to tell. To say the hard part out loud, [that] I was abused. To define it, not let it define me. Over the course of my adulthood, that desire has manifested itself in all types of ways. It has manifested itself in a love of tattoos. Tattoos, unlike scars, you get to choose. And each tattoo I have is full of so many of my own choices. Each of them represents such an important part of me. When I get a new tattoo, it's like me saying, 'I want my story told in this colour, and this size, in this location, that looks like this, and reminds me of this, and this, and this'. So, where my actual scars might reflect these moments of powerlessness, my new scars, the way I choose to mark my body up with tattoos, I feel this deep purpose in it. I feel the most amazing sense of self." (theplayerstribune.com, 29 Dec 2020)
|Mixed Double Sculls TA||Heat 2||2012-08-31||2|
|Mixed Double Sculls TA||Heat 2||2012-09-01||1|
|Mixed Double Sculls TA||Final A||2012-09-02||3|
|Women's 6 km Sitting||Final Round||2014-03-08||4|
|Women's 12 km Sitting||Final Round||2014-03-09||2|
|Women's 10 km Sitting||Final Round||2014-03-11||8|
|Women's 1 km Sprint Sitting||Final Round||2014-03-12||4|
|Women's 5 km Sitting||Final Round||2014-03-16||3|
|Women's Short Distance Sitting||Race 1||2015-01-24||8|
|Women's Long Distance - Free Style Sitting||Race 1||2015-01-25||4|
|Women's Middle Distance Sitting||Race 1||2015-01-27||9|
|Women's Sprint - Classic Sitting||Race 1||2015-01-28||3|
|Women's Middle Distance - Classic Sitting||Race 1||2015-01-31||2|
|Women's Time Trial H4-5||Final Round||2016-09-14||5|
|Women's Road Race H5||Final Round||2016-09-15||4|
|Women's Middle Distance Sitting||Final||2017-02-11||4|
|Women's Sprint - Free Style Sitting||Final||2017-02-12||1|
|Women's Long Distance Sitting||Final||2017-02-14||3|
|Women's Long Distance - Classic Sitting||Final||2017-02-16||1|
|Women's Sprint Sitting||Final||2017-02-18||1|
|Women's Middle Distance - Free Style Sitting||Final||2017-02-19||1|
|Women's 6km Sitting||Final||2018-03-10||2|
|Women's 12km Sitting||Final||2018-03-11||3|
|Women's 10km Sitting||Final||2018-03-13||9999|
|Women's 1.1km Sprint Sitting||Final||2018-03-14||1|
|Women's 12.5km Sitting||Final||2018-03-16||2|
|Women's 5km Sitting||Final||2018-03-17||1|
|Women's Middle Distance Sitting||Final||2019-02-16||1|
|Women's Middle Distance - Free Style Sitting||Final||2019-02-17||1|
|Women's Sprint - Free Style Sitting||Final||2019-02-18||1|
|Women's Sprint Sitting||Final||2019-02-20||1|
|Women's Long Distance Sitting||Final||2019-02-21||2|
|Women's Long Distance - Classic Sitting||Final||2019-02-24||1|