Sports: Nordic Skiing, Biathlon, Cycling, Rowing
Oksana Masters was born in Ukraine in 1989. The location and time of her birth have significance because of the catastrophic events that occurred three years earlier, during the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster. No one could have known that a routine systems test at the plant would have huge consequences when her birth mother fell in its path. Oksana was born healthy but with significant birth defects to her limbs, as well as a few of her organs. She was born with six toes on each foot, five webbed fingers on each hand and no thumbs. Her left leg was six inches shorter than her right one and both of her legs were missing weight-bearing bones.
Oksana was given up for adoption at birth. After living in three different orphanages, she was adopted by a wonderful American woman, Gay Masters. Due to her birth defects, Oksana had to have both legs amputated; the left at age 9 and the right at age 14. She also required multiple reconstructive surgeries to both hands.
At age 13, Oksana became interested in rowing after an impromptu introduction to the sport. When she was on the water, she began to feel a new sense of freedom and control that had been taken from her so many times throughout her past. She found out quickly the more she pushed herself, the stronger, faster and more in control she became. Oksana joined the Para-rowing team in 2011 and went on to win the bronze medal for Team USA at the Paralympic Games London 2012.
After 14 months of learning how to ski, Oksana qualified for the 2014 U.S. Paralympic team in Sochi, Russia. Oksana brought home silver and bronze medals for Team USA at the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. In the summer of 2014, Oksana added hand-cycling and went on to earn a 4th and 6th place finish at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016. Most recently, Oksana won her first gold medal in Nordic skiing at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
Oksana works closely with The Hartford, a Founding Partner of U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, helping to positively change public attitudes and perceptions about disability.
For more information about Oksana’s accomplishments, visit Team USA’s website.
Photo by Steve Belkowitz
5833i NS 04/19