Breaking down 29-time Paralympic medalist Jessica Long’s accomplishments in Tokyo

2020 Tokyo Paralympics - Day 10
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Jessica Long, the most decorated active Paralympian, exceeded even her own expectations over an eight-day stint at the Tokyo Aquatics Center.

Long was already the second-most decorated U.S. Paralympian in history prior to Tokyo, having achieved that spot five years earlier in Rio, and this time she built upon her legacy to not only meet but surpass the number of Olympic medals won by that competition’s greatest athlete, Michael Phelps.

“I think it is the first time I realized I had nothing I had to do in the sport,” Long told On Her Turf.

The Baltimore native medaled in six of her seven races, bringing her career total to 29 Paralympic medals, one more than Phelps’ 28 but still far fewer than the 55 won by fellow U.S. Paralympic swimmer Trischa Zorn, the most decorated Paralympian of all time, across seven Games. The number of races offered per classification has decreased since Zorn’s Paralympic appearances (1980-2004), making it unlikely that number will be matched for quite some time, if ever.

Long’s career total – to date, as she has her sights on another Paralympics or two – includes 16 gold medals, eight silvers and five bronzes. Twenty four are from individual events, with five in relays.

Zorn’s longest Paralympic win streaks include five-peating in both the 100m backstroke and 200m individual medley for her classification (she was born legally blind).

Long, a double below-the-knee amputee, is close to matching that feat in the 200m IM SM8, earning her first four-peat of Paralympic gold medals in a single event in Tokyo. Having only entered freestyle events at her 2004 Paralympic debut – as a 12-year-old – Long has won the 200 IM every time she’s raced it at the Paralympics.

She did, however, reach a five-peat of medals in the 400m freestyle S8. Long’s tally in that race includes three golds and two silvers in the one race she’s competed at all five Games.

The 29-year-old also achieved four-peats in three more events: 100m backstroke S8 (two silvers, two bronzes), 100m breaststroke SB7 (gold, two silvers, bronze) and 100m butterfly S8 (three golds, one bronze).

Her individual haul in Tokyo included two golds (200 IM, 100 fly – with the latter coming on Friday, the final day of swimming competition), two silvers (100 breast, 400 free) and a bronze (100 back).

“Oh that was so fun,” Long told NBC reporter Heather Cox of the 100 fly, where she returned to the top of the podium after winning in Beijing and London before settling for bronze in Rio. “I got to race the younger Russian girl (16-year-old Viktoriya Ishchiulova), who came up to me yesterday and told me I’m her hero. This is really what it’s all about, bringing up the younger generation. That was a great race for her and for me, and that is exactly how I wanted to end it here in Tokyo.”

In the women’s 4x100m medley relay 34 points, Long won gold with Hannah Aspden, Mikaela Jenkins and Morgan Stickney for the U.S.’ first win in the event in 17 years; previously, Long’s only medal in the medley relay was bronze in 2012.

The only race where Long did not medal is the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay 34 points, where she, Natalie Sims, Stickney and Aspden did touch the wall first but were disqualified when it was ruled Stickney began her leg before Sims was through.

With two days of competition remaining in Tokyo, Long’s six medals are the most among all female competitors, tied for second-most of all athletes and two more than any other U.S. teammate.

A full Paralympic Games broadcast schedule is available here. Events can also be streamed on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app, with more info available here.

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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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