Meet the Superhumans
Friendly Wheels, Issue 54
Featuring Jessica Long, Baltimore, Md.
If you're like most of the world, you're already following the 2012 Summer Olympics in London -- every four years, billions of people tune in worldwide for the Summer Olympic Games, and thousands more attend to watch the excitement.
As one of the thousands of attendees swarming London for the 2012 Games, Jessica Long has a greater purpose -- she is also preparing to compete in the Summer Paralympic Games, starting August 29th.
Jessica was born with fibular hemimelia, which means she was born with missing bones in her lower legs and nearly no bones in her feet. At 18 months, she received a double amputation below her knees so she could be fitted for prosthetics.
As a swimmer who competes without her prosthetics, Jessica will participate in the biggest Paralympic Games ever alongside 4,200 "superhuman" athletes from 160 countries in 20 different sporting events. Paralympians include athletes with amputations, visual impairments, dwarfism, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.
The Paralympic Games differ from the Special Olympics, and were designed to emphasize the participants' athletic achievements, not their disabilities. Competition is reserved for elite athletes with disabilities, and all athletes must earn their spot on the team through Paralympic Trial qualifying events.
Jessica Long began her competitive swimming career in her hometown of Baltimore, Md. at 10 years old. By the time she was 12, she was already competing in her first Paralympics at the Athens Games in 2004 as the youngest member of Team USA.
While Jessica has said that she wasn't expecting to win in her first Paralympic Games and just wanted to have fun, she certainly made a splash -- she brought home three gold medals!
Jessica attributes her achievements to her 5 keys to success: determination, visualizing, practice, support and faith. "I am very determined," Jessica said on her website. "I never wanted to be held back, even when I was little."
In her 10-year swimming career, Jessica has earned more than 55 gold medals (a combined 7 in the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games) and holds 20 world records. She recently received a 2012 ESPY award from ESPN for Best Female Athlete with a Disability alongside Kyle Maynard, a congenital amputee who was featured in our April issue of Friendly Wheels and was named Best Male Athlete with a Disability.
Jessica has said that of all the awards she has won, her favorite is the Sullivan Award, which is awarded yearly to the nation's best amateur athlete by a voting committee. In 2006, Jessica was one of 15 finalists for the prestigious award that included Michael Phelps (swimming), Apolo Ohno (speedskating), Brady Quinn (football) and Sasha Cohen (figure skating). At 15 years old, she became the first Paralympic athlete to win the award in its 76-year history.
We would like to wish all of this year's Paralympic athletes well as they prepare for the Games!
To learn more about Jessica, visit www.jessicalong.com.