By Julia Kennedy
It turns out even Olympians can’t escape the trials and tribulations of high school.
Oksana Masters, 28, is a four-sport athlete, three-time Paralympic medalist, three-time world champion Nordic skier and the 2017 world champion in the biathlon sprint. She’s also up for ‘Best Female Athlete with a Disability’ at the 2017 ESPY Awards.
The Ukrainian athlete is missing her legs due to a birth defect caused by the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident. Before she was eight, she was shuffled between three orphanages before an American woman adopted her.
Shortly before the ESPYs, she got candid with us on the red carpet, not about her difficult early childhood, but about her time as a teenager.
“When I was in high school, I covered up the fact that I had prosthetic legs,” Masters said. “As a teenager, you freak out if you have a pimple on your face. I guess this was an extra step from a pimple.”
But, after meeting her rowing partner, Rob Jones, who is also a double above-the-knee amputee, Masters’ perception of her legs did an about-face.
“When I saw his legs, I was like, ‘That’s so badass! That’s so cool!’” Masters said. “I started slowly, I took the foam off my legs and just owned more of my body. I am who I am.”
Now, Masters makes sure to see her legs for all that they give her, not what they’ve taken away.
“It was hard, but if you’re comfortable in your own skin, that is what’s attractive to people. Instead of seeing the negativity in life, I’m seeing all the possibilities I have instead, because of the way I am. Because of my legs.”
Even after winning multiple medals, the Game of Thrones binge-watcher still sees herself as a regular person.
“I get a ton of emails from people saying I’m inspirational, and for me, I just feel like I’m living my life,” Masters said. “I’m just going to the grocery store, getting gas, working out, binge-watching Netflix and counting down the days to Game of Thrones.”
And maybe that’s the point. You never know how you will touch others.
“It’s kind of cool to know that if you help one person, it starts a chain reaction of people helping each other out,” she said.
And that’s medal-worthy, too.