Oksana Masters Has Already Medaled In Three Paralympic Sports—She’s Hungry for a Fourth


Standing on the podium, she says, “that’s the moment I realized I can do this,” and her future as one of the most dominant multi-sport athletes in history was solidified. “I always say I’m a Gemini—I’m meant to be this way,” she says.

Masters’ ability to seemingly be everywhere in the para-sporting world gives her a unique platform to champion diversity in sports—not just among athletes but of the sports themselves. “We need diversity in sports for kids to see there’s so many different ways to ride a bike, to run, to ski,” she says. “The Paralympics are parallel to the Olympics, for athletes of different body types and different physical features. And right now is an exciting time to be a Paralympic athlete in the U.S. because things are changing so fast.”

In 2019, the U.S. Olympic Committee became the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee—a small change in nomenclature with significant ripple effects. “It’s huge,” says Masters. “The more people see ‘U.S Olympic and Paralympic,’ the more they’re going to learn what it is.”

The Tokyo Games are also the first to offer equal pay to Olympic and Paralympic medalists (the decision was announced in September 2018 and was retroactively applied to Paralympic medalists at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang.) Gold medals at both Games now also come with a payout of $37,500, silver $22,500, and bronze $15,000. “Before, our gold medal wasn’t even worth one half of what a bronze medal in the Olympics was,” Masters says. “It’s weird when you’re committing yourself so hard [to your country] that you’re literally putting yourself into debt. I was in so much debt when I was training for Sochi, I was living out of my car. After 2018, that was the first time I was able to get out of debt.”

Pay equity is an optimistic sign for the future of the Paralympics, which still receives far less media coverage than the Olympic Games. “Every single Paralympic athlete is going to be entering their event knowing that their country supports them and values them 100% equally to their Olympic athletes,” says Masters. “We’re moving in the right direction. Not as fast as I personally would like—and probably not as fast as 99% of Paralympic athletes would like—but it’s getting there.”

Masters and her boyfriend Aaron Pike are the only two Paralympians in history to medal in three sports. Masters is hoping to add a fourth in Tokyo. Harry How

Right now, Masters is focused on having that perfect cycling race in Tokyo while staving off anxieties about training for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing—which are scheduled to start in six months. “I’m a complete basket case, I’m not going to lie,” she says. Luckily, she has someone who gets it—her boyfriend Aaron Pike, the only other Paralympian to have medaled in three sports. “I know there’s going to come a moment where I will not be able to use my body in this way,” she says. “I want to take advantage of every single day that I can.”

Macaela MacKenzie is a senior editor at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. 


Source link