Oksana Masters has been leaving her mark on the Para sports world for nearly a decade, mastering (no pun intended) whatever sport she tries.
Already with eight Paralympic medals to her name across three sports, Masters had seemingly done it all. But on Tuesday morning in Tokyo she filled in perhaps the biggest hole on her athletic resume.
Masters won the women’s time trial H4-5, claiming her first medal in cycling – the only sport in which she had yet to medal – and first gold at a summer Paralympic Games.
She is now the fourth U.S. woman – and sixth American total – to win gold at both the summer and winter Paralympics. Alana Nichols (2008 wheelchair basketball, 2010 alpine skiing) started the exclusive group in 2010 and was joined two years later by Allison Jones (2006 alpine skiing, 2012 cycling). Kendall Gretsch became the third just two days ago when she added triathlon gold to her 2018 biathlon and cross-country skiing victories.
A teammate and competitor of Gretsch, Masters also has Paralympic medals in those two winter sports.
Masters, who has several birth defects thought to be a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and spent the first seven years of her life in Ukrainian orphanages before being adopted by American Gay Masters, made her Paralympic debut in 2012.
The double above-the-knee amputee competed in rowing’s trunk and arms mixed double sculls, earning bronze with Rob Jones.
Less than two years later, Masters went from racing on water to racing on snow. In Sochi, she medaled in both of her cross-country skiing events: silver in the 12km sitting and bronze in the 5km sitting.
Two years after that, Masters was back at a summer Games but this time on a bike. She was fourth in Para-cycling’s road race and fifth in the time trial in Rio; those remain Masters’ only Paralympic races where she finished and failed to reach the podium.
ON HER TURF: Masters on her cycling gold: “This was not expected”
Returning to the snow 18 months later, Masters medaled in all five of the Nordic events she completed, which included winning the first gold medals and the first biathlon medals of her career. She left PyeongChang with gold in cross-country’s 1.5km and 5km, silver in biathlon’s 6km and 12.5km, and bronze in the cross-country 12km.
Making that rare display of excellence even more impressive was the fact Masters had injured her right elbow just two weeks before the Games, then reinjured it when she fell in Korea during the 10km biathlon, the third event on her six-race schedule.
Back on the bike (and already with plans to be back on snow at the Beijing Paralympics in six months), Masters has now added to her legacy with a ninth medal at a fifth Games – and again after overcoming a setback. She had surgery to remove a tumor in her femur just three months ago.
Masters won the 24km Tokyo time trial in 45:40.05, a full 1 minute, 46.48 seconds ahead of silver medalist Sun Bianbian of China. The Netherlands’ Jennette Jansen was third in 48:45.69.
The win is Masters’ greatest accomplishment in the sport. She had amassed three road cycling world championship medals, including two at the latest edition 2019, but none are gold.
The 32-year-old also has 13 Nordic skiing world medals, including nine golds.
Masters will return to competition for a potential 10th career medal on Wednesday in the road race H5. She is also part of the U.S. team for Thursday’s mixed H1-5 relay.
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