Jessica Long was born in Siberia without fibula bones, ankles, or heels. She was adopted at a year old by U.S. couple Beth and Steve Long, and just a few months later she had both legs amputated below the knee. Long was involved in many sports from an early age and fell in love with swimming while playing in her grandparents’ pool. Swimming allowed her to blow off the steam and frustration that came from being in and out of the hospital during a childhood marked by more than two dozen surgeries. Long joined her first competitive swim team at age 10 and made her Paralympic debut at Athens in 2004, taking home three gold medals. Over the years Long has earned 23 Paralympic medals, including 13 golds.
Away from swimming:
Long starred in a 60-second Toyota ad that aired during the 2021 Super Bowl, a photographic memoir about her life in 2018, and a film following her on a trip to Russia in 2014. She has also written a book with her sister, Hannah, called Unsinkable.
In their own words:
“I’d always loved to swim, and it just felt right. My grandmother found a clipping in a local newspaper about a local swim team, and we just decided to try it out. The thing that sold me was that I didn’t have to wear prosthetics.”
“I literally only got into swimming because I was a very angry child. It was where I let out my anger and frustration, but it was also where I felt really free and capable.”
“I wasn’t satisfied with my performance in Rio. I was very burnt out. But I continued to push through the struggles, so here I am and I’m really looking forward to Tokyo.”
Prior Paralympics: 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016
- Sport: Swimming
- Limb Difference: Bilateral below knee
- DOB: 2/29/92
- Residence: Baltimore, MD
- Classification: S8/SB7/SM8