Jessica Long achieved a feat in the Paralympic pool on Tuesday night that not even Michael Phelps was able to on the Olympic side – a five-peat.
Long took silver in the 400m freestyle S8 in Tokyo, successfully medaling in the event at all five of her Paralympic Games to date. She owns three gold and two silver medals at the distance.
Now 29, Long had won the event at her first three Paralympics from 2004-2012, then settled for silver in Rio five years ago. She was nearing a potential return to the top of the podium but was out-touched by U.S. teammate Morgan Stickney by just over a second.
Stickney, 24, won the first Paralympic medal of her career in 4:42.39, with Long coming in at 4:43.41. Italy’s Xenia Francesca Palazzo, the 2019 World silver medalist, took bronze in 4:56.79.
This is Long’s 26th career medal.
As recent 100m T37 track gold medalist Nick Mayhugh pointed out on a Team USA Instagram post: “She’s got more medals than years I’ve been alive. Wow.”
Long is the second-most decorated U.S. Paralympian and most decorated active Paralympian in the world.
“17 years ago I won the Paralympic gold medal in Athens in the 400 free as a 12 year old,” Long posted to social media. “I can still remember that moment vividly.
“Morgan Stickney you were just a kindergartner! I hope tonight sticks with you the way my Athens race sticks with me. Cherish this moment. Welcome to the club, Morgan. You’re a Paralympic gold medalist.”
Stickney was one of the top able-bodied age group swimmers in the U.S. as a teenager, specializing in the 1500m, until pain struck in her left foot. After six years of surgeries and unrelenting pain, the North Carolina native decided to have her leg amputated in May 2018 at age 20.
In January 2019, Stickney’s right foot fractured and, following tests, she learned there was no blood flow below the calf. That October she had her right leg amputated below the knee.
“A little over a year ago I couldn’t even walk,” Stickney told TeamUSA.org in June of this year. “I was just sitting in a wheelchair without legs. We have all these videos and pictures of me at Spaulding (Rehabilitation Network in Boston) learning how to walk as a bilateral amputee and it’s pretty incredible to see how far I’ve come in a year.”
Tuesday was a five-medal day for the United States in the pool.
Eighteen-year-old Mikaela Jenkins earned the first Paralympic medal of her career.
In a close finish for the podium spots, she won the 100m butterfly S10 gold in 1:07.52, narrowly ahead of Australia’s Jasmine Greenwood (1:07.89) and the Netherlands’ Chantalle Zijderveld (1:07.91).
McKenzie Coan was second in the 100m freestyle S7, two days after winning the 400, for the sixth medal of her career. Italian Giulia Terzi won the race in a Paralympic record time of 1:09.21.
Matthew Torres won the first medal of his career with bronze in the 400 freestyle S8.
World records were broken in the men’s 200m individual medley SM14 and 100m butterfly S10.
In the latter, Ukrainian Maksym Krypak lowered a 2016 record from 54.71 seconds to 54.15. Great Britain’s Reece Dunn brought a 2019 world record in the IM from 2:08.16 to 2:08.02.
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