US Paralympic gold medalist ‘proudest to say I am Ukrainian’

Associated Press/Michael Sohn

A Paralympian honored her Ukrainian roots before winning Team U.S.A. its first gold medal in the Beijing Games.

Oksana Masters took to Instagram on Saturday to reflect on the current situation in Ukraine, writing that her “Ukrainian heart” makes her a “fighter.”

“I have always been so proud to be Ukrainian, felt so much pride at the sight of the Ukrainian flag, and now more than ever, I am the proudest to say I am Ukrainian,” she wrote. “My mom always said my Ukrainian heart made me resilient; it made me a fighter.”

The 32-year-old multi-sport Paralympian, who was born with birth defects linked to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, won two Paralympic medals on Sunday. Her first victory came in the form of a silver medal in the long-distance sitting cross-country skiing event, followed by a first-place finish in the women’s skiing sitting 6km sprint biathlon.

Despite feeling a sense of “guilt” and “selfishness” for competing while her birth nation goes to war, Masters said the experience has reminded her of the importance of the Winter Paralympic Games.

“As the Winter Paralympic Games begin, I am reminded how sport has always had the power to unite the world,” she wrote.”

She added, “Every pole stroke, I will be racing for the families and kids in Ukraine with disabilities. While the Ukrainian people are fighting for their homes and peace, I want to make every start line and finish line mean something much bigger than a race or a result.”

The 2022 Paralympic Winter Games run from March 4 through March 13.

Tags Oksana Masters Paralympic Games team USA Ukraine

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