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Paralympian Jessica Longs Talks About Overcoming Adversity & Inspiring Other Adaptive Athletes

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore can proudly claim the second most decorated Paralympian in US history. Jessica Long just returned from her fifth Paralympics where she added to her list of medals -- 29 overall and 16 gold.

While she's been nicknamed "Aquawoman" for her prowess in the pool and last week she got a chance to test her pitching arm.

Jessica is now working with one of her sponsors, Bridgestone, on a new program where she will share her experiences and help mentor adaptive athletes. The program is called "Chase Your Dream" and if anyone is an example of someone who's done just that, it's Jessica!

Long can also check off becoming the most decorated active Paralympic athlete in history -- taking home gold in the women's butterfly in Tokyo. This after, the competition was delayed and the atmosphere was changed by COVID.

"More I think from a mental health standpoint, it's hard, right? I mean the games are hard. it's challenging, it's tough. It's ten days of intense competition, so to add on all the covid protocols brought its own set of challenges," said Long.

"Nevertheless you overcame," said WJZ's Denise Koch.

That is exactly what Jessica has been doing her entire life. She was adopted as an infant from Russia and her parents were told her legs would need to be amputated. Her story touched the world when Toyota ran an ad during last year's Superbowl.

"I know this will be difficult to hear. Her life, it won't be easy."

"I know it won't be easy but it will be amazing."

And so it has been. At the age of 12, Jessica made a discovery. Swimming helped tame her deep feeling of anger.

"Anger was just a very comfortable emotion. I was just angry. It felt a way to be tough, almost survival," said Long. "I'm 29. I've had more surgeries than I can count. I've had infections. I've learned to walk all over again more times than I can count. But when I look back I think it's changing the mentality from why me? to why not me."

"I truly feel, like, why not me to encourage others. Why not me to inspire others and if I've inspired one person, I've always felt like I've done my job well," Long added.


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