Jessica Long’s future: another book, more coaching, seven Paralympics?

Jessica Long
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If Jessica Long swims competitively for as long as she hopes, she will be one of the most recognizable athletes when the Paralympics return to the U.S.

“I would love to swim until LA 2028,” Long, a 29-year-old who swam in the last four Paralympics, wrote in a Reddit AMA last week (full transcript here). “In the meantime I have another book idea, want to stay involved in public speaking and maybe do some coaching.”

Long was the latest Tokyo hopeful in a series of weekly AMA events. The full schedule is here.

Long burst into stardom at age 12, when she won three gold medals at the 2004 Athens Games. She’s now up to 23 Paralympic medals, including 13 golds, ranking second in U.S. history in total Paralympic medals behind fellow swimmer Trischa Zorn (overall record 55 medals).

Zorn competed in seven Paralympics, the last in 2004, at age 40 as a teammate of the pre-teen Long. If Long goes all the way through LA 2028, she will also reach seven Paralympics.

Long swam in at least seven events at each of the last three Paralympics. She’s preparing for a similarly busy schedule in Tokyo. The Paralympics open Aug. 24.

“In the Paralympics there are seven different events. I usually swim all seven,” she wrote. “We will have to see what happens this year though, I may cut out an event or two so I can get some better rest. There are also relay events, which I hope to get named too!”

Long navigated several challenges in recent years.

She left the 2016 Rio Games with six medals, but just one gold, down from five titles in 2012.

“Rio was really terrible, pretty much everything that could have gone wrong went wrong,” she said, according to the International Paralympic Committee. “I was emotionally drained and mentally broken, and I had developed a really bad eating disorder [losing 20 pounds].”

Long also dealt with shoulder injuries, plus was without a coach for a time less than two months before the Opening Ceremony.

“I just wasn’t me,” she said, according to the IPC.

The following year, Long won eight gold medals at the world championships. But at 2019 Worlds, she failed to win a gold medal at a global championships for the first time.

She almost didn’t compete in the meet, which was moved from Malaysia to London and from July/August to September, three weeks before her wedding.

“I knew I wasn’t at my best,” Long said in 2019. “It was just a show up and learn some takeaways and strategies for Tokyo.”

Six months later, the Tokyo Games were postponed to 2021. Long, who practices at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, was out of the water for 75 days last year amid pool closures.

She rowed. She biked. She imitated her swimming stroke while holding weights. She surprised herself when she returned to swimming.

“How quickly I got back into it,” she said last month. “It was doing all those little exercises that really added up, for sure.”

Long has also spoken out in recent years about classification within Paralympic swimming.

In the same way that some Olympic sports group athletes by sex or weight, Paralympic sports group athletes by disability. It helps ensure that competition is as fair and equal as possible so that winning is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability, and mental focus, rather than degree of disability.

Swimmers with physical disabilities are divided into 10 classifications based on degree of impairment.

Long said there has been manipulation within the classification system, which is an inexact science, calling the overall issue “as serious as doping.”

That was part of the reason she left Rio bitter and angry. She started seeing a therapist, not to dwell on Rio or classification, but on her life outside of swimming. Long was born in Siberia without fibulas, ankles, heels and most of the other bones in her feet, and adopted by Americans from a Russian orphanage at 13 months old.

At 18 months old, her legs were amputated below the knees. She has had more than a dozen surgeries. Long began swimming in her grandparents’ pool after church on Sundays, pretending she was a mermaid.

In 2013, Long traveled with her younger sister to meet her birth parents, who were teenagers when Long was born, accompanied by an NBC Olympics production team for a film. This past winter, Long’s life story was the focus of a one-minute Super Bowl commercial. Naturally, she spent most of the ad in the water.

“I am a better person when I’m swimming,” she said.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Long won six gold medals at the 2016 Paralympics. She won six total medals.

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IOC recommends how Russia, Belarus athletes can return as neutrals

Thomas Bach

The IOC updated its recommendations to international sports federations regarding Russian and Belarusian athletes, advising that they can return to competitions outside of the Olympics as neutral athletes in individual events and only if they do not actively support the war in Ukraine. Now, it’s up to those federations to decide if and how they will reinstate the athletes as 2024 Olympic qualifying heats up.

The IOC has not made a decision on the participation of Russian or Belarusian athletes for the Paris Games and will do so “at the appropriate time,” IOC President Thomas Bach said Tuesday.

Most international sports federations for Olympic sports banned Russian and Belarusian athletes last year following IOC recommendations to do so after the invasion of Ukraine.

Bach was asked Tuesday what has changed in the last 13 months that led to the IOC updating its recommendations.

He reiterated previous comments that, after the invasion and before the initial February 2022 recommendations, some governments refused to issue visas for Russians and Belarusians to compete, and other governments threatened withdrawing funding from athletes who competed against Russians and Belarusians. He also said the safety of Russians and Belarusians at competitions was at risk at the time.

Bach said that Russians and Belarusians have been competing in sports including tennis, the NHL and soccer (while not representing their countries) and that “it’s already working.”

“The question, which has been discussed in many of these consultations, is why should what is possible in all these sports not be possible in swimming, table tennis, wrestling or any other sport?” Bach said.

Bach then read a section of remarks that a United Nations cultural rights appointee made last week.

“We have to start from agreeing that these states [Russia and Belarus] are going to be excluded,” Bach read, in part. “The issue is what happens with individuals. … The blanket prohibition of Russian and Belarusian athletes and artists cannot continue. It is a flagrant violation of human rights. The idea is not that we are going to recognize human rights to people who are like us and with whom we agree on their actions and on their behavior. The idea is that anyone has the right not to be discriminated on the basis of their passport.”

The IOC’s Tuesday recommendations included not allowing “teams of athletes” from Russia and Belarus to return.

If Russia continues to be excluded from team sports and team events, it could further impact 2024 Olympic qualification.

The international basketball federation (FIBA) recently set an April 28 deadline to decide whether to allow Russia to compete in an Olympic men’s qualifying tournament. For women’s basketball, the draw for a European Olympic qualifying tournament has already been made without Russia.

In gymnastics, the ban has already extended long enough that, under current rules, Russian gymnasts cannot qualify for men’s and women’s team events at the Paris Games, but can still qualify for individual events if the ban is lifted.

Gymnasts from Russia swept the men’s and women’s team titles in Tokyo, where Russians in all sports competed for the Russian Olympic Committee rather than for Russia due to punishment for the nation’s doping violations. There were no Russian flags or anthems, conditions that the IOC also recommends for any return from the current ban for the war in Ukraine.

Seb Coe, the president of World Athletics, said last week that Russian and Belarusian athletes remain banned from track and field for the “foreseeable future.”

World Aquatics, the international governing body for swimming, diving and water polo, said after the IOC’s updated recommendations that it will continue to “consider developments impacting the situation” of Russian and Belarusian athletes and that “further updates will be provided when appropriate.”

The IOC’s sanctions against Russia and Belarus and their governments remain in place, including disallowing international competitions to be held in those countries.

On Monday, Ukraine’s sports minister said in a statement that Ukraine “strongly urges” that Russian and Belarusian athletes remain banned.

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Summer McIntosh breaks 400m freestyle world record, passes Ledecky, Titmus

Summer McIntosh

Summer McIntosh broke the women’s 400m freestyle world record at Canada’s swimming trials on Tuesday night, becoming at 16 the youngest swimmer to break a world record in an Olympic program event since Katie Ledecky a decade ago.

McIntosh clocked 3 minutes, 56.08 seconds in Toronto. Australian Ariarne Titmus held the previous record of 3:56.40, set last May. Before that, Ledecky held the record since 2014, going as low as 3:56.46.

“Going into tonight, I didn’t think the world record was a possibility, but you never know,” McIntosh, who had quotes from Ledecky on her childhood bedroom wall, said in a pool-deck interview moments after the race.

McIntosh’s previous best time was 3:59.32 from last summer’s Commonwealth Games. She went into Tuesday the fourth-fastest woman in history behind Titmus, Ledecky and Italian Federica Pellegrini.

She is also the third-fastest woman in history in the 400m individual medley and the 11th-fastest in the 200m butterfly, two events she won at last June’s world championships. She is the world junior record holder in those events, too.

MORE: McIntosh chose swimming and became Canada’s big splash

McIntosh, Titmus and Ledecky could go head-to-head-to-head in the 400m free at the world championships in July and at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Titmus is the reigning Olympic champion. Ledecky is the reigning world champion, beating McIntosh by 1.24 seconds last June while Titmus skipped the meet.

The last time the last three world record holders in an Olympic program event met in the final of a major international meet was the 2012 Olympic men’s 100m breaststroke (Brendan Hansen, Kosuke Kitajima, Brenton Rickard).

Ledecky, whose best events are the 800m and 1500m frees, broke her first world record in 2013 at 16 years and 4 months old.

McIntosh is 16 years and 7 months old and trains in Sarasota, Florida, which is 160 miles down Interstate 75 from Ledecky in Gainesville.

McIntosh, whose mom swam at the 1984 Olympics and whose sister competed at last week’s world figure skating championships, is the youngest individual world champion in swimming since 2011.

In 2021, at age 14, she became the youngest swimmer to race an individual Olympic final since 2008, according to She was fourth in the 400m free at the Tokyo Games.

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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