One of the top competitors at the Paralympics, American swimmer Jessica Long has already won five gold medals and two silvers here in London. And with two more finals to come, she's not finished yet.
Born in Russia and adopted by an American family at 13 months old, Jessica's lower legs were amputated when she was just a year and a half old due to a bone deficiency in her feet and legs. But she hasn't let that slow her down, participating in gymnastics, cheerleading, ice skating, cycling, trampolining and rock climbing. She was even the runner-up in speed rock-climbing at the 2006 Extremity Games. And she won three gold medals at Athens 2004 and four at Beijing 2008.
Now 20, she is the world leader in the S8 category. "When I was 12 [in Athens] I had no expectations. And then when I was 16 [in Beijing] I put tonnes of pressure on myself, she said. "But now that I'm 20 I have no pressure. I don't have anything to prove. I already have my gold medals, so now I'm just going out and having a lot of fun. And it's working so far!"
Being that much faster than everyone else in the pool, her main competition tends to be herself, so it's no wonder that she's always reaching to break her own world records. "I set my goals very, very high," she said. "I feel like I'm always competing against myself and setting new goals. The training is exhausting and hard, but coming to London makes all those hard practices and 5am starts worth it. Records are made to be broken."
And she faces each race as a new challenge. "Yesterday I could celebrate my gold medal and today I put that behind me," she said. "I'm not going to go down without a fight."
After winning a gold medal in world record time here in London, she said, "What I always like to say is that I swam my heart out. And I can honestly say I swam my heart out and gave it everything I had. But I'm also really happy to see my coach, and my family who are up in the stands. And I give all the glory to God always. I'm just really thankful and blessed."
Paralympics: Records are made to be broken
Published 07 September 2012