At first glance, Jessica Long looks like a typical Olympian swimmer. She is widely acclaimed and decorated with feats and medals. But Jessica is far more inspiring than this—she does not have lower legs.
Despite her deformities, Jessica is a world-class swimmer. She is the paralympic swimmer with the most awards and championships in different swimming events. These include freestyle, breaststroke, and butterfly forms styles in distances ranging from 50 to 200 meters. Since she is a paralympic athlete with amputated legs, Jessica belongs to the S8, SB7, and SM8 classifications.
Jessica, called by her friends and peers as Aquawoman, lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with Lucas Winters, her husband. He is a recreation director for young football athletes. Jessica and Lucas met at a church potluck dinner, and they got married on a farm in 2019.
Jessica Long got trained in the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, a prestigious training organization for young swimmers. Her coach is Erik Posegay. Aside from swimming, she finds joy in reading books, meditating, and bonding with her family. Indeed, she owes so much to her adoptive parents. Jessica also said that her younger sister is her inspiration.
Jessica Long’s biography
Jessica Long’s childhood
No one could have imagined that a genetically impaired baby in Siberia would become a record-breaking world Paralympic swimmer.
Jessica, who is named Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova by birth, was born on February 29, 1992. Her mother was a poor sixteen-year-old. Worse, Jessica has fibular hemimelia. This congenital deficiency will keep her calf bone from growing. So she would grow up without legs. These grave problems prompted Jessica’s mother to give her baby to an orphanage.
Beth and Steve Long adopted her. They brought baby Jessica a new beginning in Maryland, nine thousand kilometers away from Siberia.
Although her life in the United States opened her life for possibilities and greater comfort, her early childhood would become filled with pain. A few months after she turned one, Jessica needed to go through surgery. Her abnormal legs got removed so that the prosthesis may get installed. Twenty-four more surgeries would follow.
Aside from physical pain, Jessica endured emotional scars. The trauma of surgeries made her early years bleak. She also had questions about herself and why she had to suffer.
Despite having no lower legs, Jessica’s parents believed in her potential. They introduced her to gymnastics and rock climbing. But these activities wear out her legs and prosthetics.
She would fall in love with the sport that would change her life forever: swimming. Jessica looked forward to visiting her grandparents’ pool. In her interviews, she narrated how swimming makes her forget having no lower legs. It was appealing to young Jessica because she could excel in the pool without her artificial legs.
The sport gave her a sense of freedom from her frustrations and insecurities. In the pool, her fury turned into a passion. Jessica discovered that her love for swimming could help defeat her infirmities.
The beginnings of Jessica Long’s swimming career
Her parents and grandparents supported her in pursuing this sport. When she was ten years old, Jessica’s grandmother helped her apply at a local swimming group. Soon after this, she participated in a competitive swimming team. Jessica got recognized in Maryland for becoming a promising swimmer despite having no lower legs.
Just two years later, at age 12, she participated in the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece. Amazingly, Jessica Long won three gold medals, a feat that marks her greatness. Being a full-time athlete required her to homeschool in her teens.
Prestigious Olympic victories and athletic achievements
Jessica Long’s aspirations became fulfilled in the years that followed. The young dreamer from Maryland ascended to the world stage, earning medals in different global competitions. Below is a timeline of her achievements in her colorful and inspiring career.
In 2005, Jessica won five gold medals and a bronze medal in the United States Paralympics Open Swimming Championships. In this competition in Minnesota, she also beat two world records.
2006 was a successful year for Jessica Long. She overcame two world records in Atlanta, Georgia. Representing the United States, Jessica won five gold medals and a silver medal in the Can-Am Swimming Championship event in Ontario, Canada. She also overcame four world records. In Antwerp, Belgium, Jessica beat two world records again. But that is not all. In the world championship event of the International Paralympic Committee in South Africa, Jessica won nine gold medals.
She became recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the Female Athlete of January 2006 and the Paralympian of the Year. Jessica also won the James E. Sullivan Award, a prize for successful non-professional athletes. The Swimming World publication called her the Disabled Swimmer of 2006, and she got selected for the Trischa L. Zorn Award for a similar title.
In 2007, Jessica participated again in the Can-Am championship event, where she won three world records. She achieved the same feat in a disability sports event at Oakland University in Michigan. Then, in her home state of Maryland, she got first place in four competitions in the United States Paralympics Open Swimming Championships. For these feats, the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network recognized her as the best female disabled athlete in 2007.
Jessica Long’s career in 2008 was as productive as ever. In the 2008 Can-Am Championships, she beat another world record. That year, Jessica won four gold medals, a silver medal, and a bronze medal in International Paralympic Games in Beijing, China. The International Olympic Committee gave her an award as well.
In 2009, she won fourteen gold medals in the Spring and Summer Can-Am Championships. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jessica Long won four gold medals in the world championships organized by the International Paralympic Committee.
Jessica won six gold medals again in the Can-Am championships in 2010. Then, she bagged seven gold medals and two silver medals in the world championship event of the International Paralympic Committee. There, in the Netherlands, she beat two world records again.
The following year, in 2011, she returned to the Can-Am Championship, achieving six gold medals. In the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships, she also won nine gold medals and beat four records. The Swimming World publication recognized her again as the Disabled Swimmer of the Year.
As the 2012 Paralympic Summer Games opened in London, Jessica Long garnered five gold medals, two silver medals, and a bronze medal. The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network called her again the best female disabled athlete. Likewise, the United States Olympic Committee recognized her as the country’s paralympic sportswoman of 2012.
In 2013, Jessica Long achieved medals and recognition once more. In the national championship event of the United States Paralympics, she won three gold medals. Also, this year, she won three gold medals, a silver medal, and a bronze medal in the International Paralympic Committee’s global championship event for swimmers. Again, Jessica Long became the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network’s best female disabled athlete.
Jessica Long’s swimming career in 2014 was filled with gold medals again. The athlete participated in the spring event of Can-Am and the United States Paralympics. Here, Jessica achieved four gold medals. She also won six gold medals and two silver medals in the Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships.
SwimSwam, an online publication about swimming, called Jessica the female para-swimmer of the year.
The following year, in 2015, she achieved four gold medals and three silver medals in the Swimming World Championships of the International Paralympic Committee in Scotland. USA Swimming, the governing body of swimmers in the nation, gave her the Trischa Zorn Award and hailed her as the Disability Swimmer of the Year.
But her stride got bumpy in 2016. In the Paralympic Summer Games in Brazil, she only got one gold medal, three silver medals, and two bronze medals.
Since then, she regained her momentum in national and world championships. Jessica Long has become the pride of the United States and the disabled community. Hence, she trains in Colorado state. At the United States Olympic and Paralympic Training Center, she goes through nine weekly training sessions.
Jessica Long’s difficulties and how she overcame them
It is an understatement to say that it is difficult to be born without legs. It is an impairment that can challenge hurt a disabled person throughout life. Although Jessica Long triumphed over this, life still hurled many tests and problems at her. These even affected her career as a para-swimmer at times.
In the first months of 2008, her appendix ruptured. Her surgery and recovery prompted her to rest in the meantime. Three years later, in 2011, Jessica suffered from costochondritis. In this disorder, the cartilage between her ribs and breastbone got inflamed. Aside from the stabbing chest pain it brought, Jessica became sensitive to fatigue. This illness might have come from intense exercise and swimming routines.
Like what you have read above, she raked medals and recognition every year since she was ten years old. But her physical and mental tiredness stacked up until 2016. In this year, she experienced the worst strain]in her career. Her shoulders became swollen as she prepared for that year’s Paralympic Games in Brazil. Her anxiety and fatigue pushed her to an eating disorder. She lost 20 pounds and her coach weeks before the event.
Despite these, she won one gold medal, three silver medals, and a bronze medal. It may be an astounding feat for us and her fellow athletes, but this record is a worrisome slump in her career.
Jessica Long still proved her perseverance and determination afterward. Instead of retiring or surrendering, she kept on training but with a lighter schedule. She also went through therapy and kept her self-identity.
Aside from these, Jessica coached young girls wanting to become swimmers. She also helps the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This organization helps critically ill children survive and thrive as they grow up. These children include amputees like Jessica.
Looking back, Jessica once said that negative thinking is the primary disability one should fight. She wants to serve as an inspiration to children born with defects and infirmities. Furthermore, Jessica wants to empower people to keep on fighting and thriving no matter what.
Jessica Long’s net worth, properties, and fame
Since Jessica Long is a decorated para-swimmer, she has earned millions of dollars from bonuses, rewards, and endorsements. For example, Jessica became the focus of Toyota and Coca-Cola’s athlete-related advertising. Some estimate that her net worth in 2021 is at least five to ten million dollars. Her private properties have not been disclosed to the public.
Jessica Long is famous on social media for her inspiring story and uplifting character. Through her content, she shows that disabled people can still soar and succeed. Instead of hiding and getting ashamed, they can become like Jessica.
There are also television shows that celebrate her achievements. The National Broadcasting Company, for example, created a documentary entitled Long Way Home. In this show, they presented her journey and achievements. Most importantly, she visited Siberia, where her biological parents live.
Here, Jessica expressed that she feels no anger or resentment that her parents offered her for adoption. She even declared that it was a courageous move. The world champion also said that she loves her biological mother so much for giving her life.
Jessica Long in 2020 onwards
In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Jessica Long won a four-peat victory in the SM8 category of the 200-meter individual medley. In the event, she defeated the para-swimmers from Italy and the Russian Paralympic Committee.
She stayed away from her loved ones and trained intensively for a year. With this victory, Jessica said that her perseverance and sacrifices paid off once more.
Jessica Long is the second US Paralympian with the most medals in these games. So far, she has 25 medals. The para-swimmer who has obtained the highest number of Paralympic decorations is Trischa Zorn. With 55 medals, she retired as the most respected and accomplished Paralympic swimmer.
Will Jessica Long become the next Trischa Zorn?