Already one of the greatest Paralympians ever, U.S. swimmer Jessica Long entered the Tokyo Games with one goal larger in her mind than any other: win the women’s 200-meter individual medley SM8.
On Saturday evening in Tokyo, Long captured her fourth consecutive gold medal in the event dating back to the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, further cementing her legendary status. She is the most decorated active Paralympian with 25 total Paralympic medals, including 14 golds.
“I’m over the moon,” Long said afterward. “I’m just so happy. To have a four-peat in the 200 IM, that’s what I’ve been dreaming of coming into these Games. I’m really proud of myself.”
— #TokyoParalympics (@NBCOlympics) August 28, 2021
The gold-medal performance in the 200m IM was Long’s first four-peat of her historic career. Long, 29, also earned bronze in the 100m backstroke S8 on Friday.
After her gold-medal victory on Saturday, the five-time Paralympian took to Instagram to thank Jesus.
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Long was born in Russia, abandoned to a Siberian orphanage, then adopted by American parents from Baltimore, Maryland, when she was 13 months old. Due to a condition called fibular hemimelia, Long’s lower legs were amputated before she was 2.
Her disability didn’t hold her back from becoming active in sports, and she eventually made her first appearance on the international stage at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens when she was only 12 years old. While there, she captured three gold medals in freestyle events.
Long joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast last year to detail her incredible journey in life, sports and faith, including how Jesus brought her to Himself.
“It didn’t happen overnight; it was three years of showing up to my Bible study, to church, having a community of believers, and again I fought God on everything,” she said. “But there was this moment in June of 2013 that I just felt it on my heart that I didn’t want to question if I was a believer or not. The big thing that I kept saying was, ‘I wanted to give God my whole heart and not just part of me.'”
Now, eight years later, Long is grateful for the unique position God has placed her in to use her swimming talent to glorify Him.
“As a little girl, it’s hard to comprehend that God’s going to use you in this big way and that swimming’s eventually going to come into play, and it’s going to be this platform to reach other people,” she said. “I definitely think that’s been one of the coolest things — reaching other people through my story, my testimony.”
Long could add to her historic medal count in Tokyo and possibly even Paris in 2024. Long still has three more events in Tokyo, beginning with the 400-meter freestyle on Tuesday.
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