Jessica Long

Paralympian Jessica Long tells fans only a negative attitude can sink their dreams

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Shoe shopping can be a problem when you don’t have any feet. Double amputee Jessica Long said she dreaded trips to the shoe store because of it reminded her she didn’t have legs. The way the clerk would look at her and her prosthetic legs and feet made her feel disabled. She just wanted shoes that were comfortable and cute. Long wondered if she’d ever be able to wear high heels or flip flops. Now at 25 new developments mean she can wear flip flops and has high heel prosthetics. She considers her prosthetic legs as “really tall shoes.” She loves to show her legs. And, along the way, she’s won 25 medals, 13 of them gold (the only ones she counts,) at the Paralympic Games. Long, the second most decorated Paralympic athlete, was in Bowling Green this week, as the special guest of We Are One Team Bowling Green. She met with athletes on the Bowling Green State University campus, addressed a crowd of 500 in the Stroh Center Wednesday night, and talked to fourth graders from Crim and Conneaut at the Wood County Library on Thursday morning. As WA1T president and founder Yannick Kluch said at both events, the organization was created to promote diversity and social justice through sports. Long’s mission is to encourage everyone, regardless of their situation, to strive to excel and persevere. “I believe the only disability in life is a negative attitude,” she told both crowds. Long was born in Siberia with deformed lower legs, caused by fibular hemimelia, to a 16-year-old mother. Her birth mother realized she did not have the resources to raise a disabled child. “She made one of the toughest decisions a mother could make to put me up for adoption, hoping I would be adopted by a good family,” Long said at the Stroh Center. Long’s American parents adopted her when she was 13 months old. Then “they made the difficult decision to amputate both of my legs when I was 18 months old so I could be fitted prosthetic legs and learn to walk. … I truly think they made the best decision.” It was the first of 20 surgeries, she’d undergo as she grew. She hated the recoveries. “I didn’t understand why it was happening to me.” She just had let her body heal. And for someone with as much energy as she had that was hard. She did cartwheels and flips, and her parents have told her she once scaled the refrigerator. Looking for some way to channel that energy into sport, they enrolled her in gymnastics when she was 4. But they were concerned the toll landing was taking on her knees.  So at 10 she switched to swimming. She’d already been swimming for years in her grandparents’ pool. “I used to pretend I was a mermaid,” she said. Long was signed up on a team, and she loved it. She loved the idea of racing and beating girls with legs. “My team always treated me like a friend, a competitor,” she said. “Every time I jump in the pool, it’s this world of infinite possibilities. I’m completely free. My body takes over. There’s nothing holding me back but myself.” It was at a meet she learned about…


Paralympic champion swimmer Jessica Long to visit BGSU

Submitted WE ARE ONE TEAM  We Are One Team (WA1T), an award-winning initiative to promote social justice through sport at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), is excited to announce its 2017 fall speaker for the WA1T: Our Voices educational series: Jessica Long, 13-time Paralympic gold medalist and second-most decorated Paralympic athlete in U.S. history. On Wednesday, November 8, at 6:30 p.m. in the Stroh Center, Long will hold a keynote presentation focused on her inspirational story about being adopted from Russia at a young age to becoming a 13-time Paralympic gold medalist in swimming. The keynote event titled, “We Are One Team (WA1T) Presents: Jessica Long – The Story of a Paralympic Prodigy,” is open tothe public. “I am honored to join Bowling Green State University to promote their We Are One Team (WA1T) initiative,” Long said, “My experience as a Paralympic athlete has taught me the importance of self-confidence and acceptance of others. I hope that by sharing my story, I can help encourage others to redefine ‘normal’ and celebrate our diversity.” “Jessica is a high-profile athlete who has used her platform to create understanding for marginalized members of the sport community,” Yannick Kluch, president of We Are One Team (WA1T), said. “Her drive to promote diversity and inclusion throughout her career make her a perfect speaker for We Are One Team. We are always looking for athletes who break down stereotypes and live authentically no matter what challenges they may face.” Long was born with fibular hemimelia and had both legs amputated at 18 months old. She was involved in many sports growing up before she joined her first competitive swim team at the age of 10. She has competed in four Paralympic games and has won 23 Paralympic medals. Long is also a three-time recipient of the ESPN Best Female Athlete with a Disability ESPY Award. She has been named to Sports Illustrated’s list of “The World’s Best Female Athletes” twice. Currently, Long trains with the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. While Long’s keynote presentation as part of the WA1T: Our Voices educational series will be the main event of her visit to Bowling Green, Long will also visit the Wood County District Public Library on November 9 to interact and speak with Bowling Green middle schoolers. Her visit is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. This event provides middle schoolers the opportunity to listen to a story of adversity from an accomplished athlete and will highlight the importance of promoting values such as diversity and inclusion at a young age. While the session is focused on middle schoolers, it is open to the public and Bowling Green community members are welcome to attend. Long’s two-day visit to Bowling Green will also consist of opportunities to meet with students, community members, faculty, staff, administrators, and student-athletes. She will visit classes in the School of Human Movement, Sport, and Leisure Studies to share her story and interact with students who are interested in working with athletes in a variety of capacities. Finally, Long will attend a session to connect with members from the BGSU Women’s Swimming and Diving team, which will allow BGSU student-athletes to connect with a high-profile athlete who is at the top of her sport. Mandy Washko, co-captain of the BGSU Swimming and Diving Team and Vice President…