Oksana Masters wins first Paralympic gold after being told to sit out

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Oksana Masters was told this day would not happen. They told her two weeks ago, when she dislocated her right elbow in Montana. They told her yesterday, when she fell in a race, reinjured her arm and failed to finish.

Yet there was Masters, raising that arm, covered nearly from shoulder to wrist in a black brace, at the finish line of the 1.1km sitting cross-country skiing sprint at the PyeongChang Paralympics on Wednesday.

Masters, who previously earned five combined silver and bronze medals among three sports between the Summer and Winter Paralympics, finally earned her first gold.

“I did not believe this would happen,” she told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN. “I just knew that I wasn’t going to let yesterday be my last race and that’s how I end my Paralympic Games.”

Masters and Andy Soule notched an American sweep of the sitting sprint gold medals Wednesday. The U.S remained atop the medal standings through 53 of 80 events. The Americans have 21 total medals and eight golds, their most in either category since hosting the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

Masters, 28, grabbed her first gold in her 12th career Paralympic event at her fourth Games. She rowed at London 2012, cycled at Rio 2016 and competed in biathlon and cross-country skiing at Sochi 2014 and in three previous events in PyeongChang.

“Internally, I kind of knew that I have had four years into this, and I wasn’t going to let an elbow take that away from me,” Masters said, according to PyeongChang 2018.

Masters, skiing with what she called “excruciating” pain, held off German and Russian skiers by 2.1 and 3.7 seconds, respectively, in the four-minute final.

Masters has become one of the world’s most versatile athletes after being born in Ukraine with defects believed to be caused by the Chernobyl disaster and bouncing from orphanage to orphanage for seven years before being adopted by a single mother in New York.

“I cannot wait to put it around my mom’s neck,” she said of the gold medal. “I told her the first gold, it’s hers.”

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