2012, 2014 Paralympian - United States

@OksanaMasters - Twitter &  Instagram / Facebook Fan Page - Oksana Masters USA

STATUS: Rio 2016 Paralympic Hopeful (Cycling)




Photo Credit: Southwest Spirit Magazine - August 2012

The human spirit is something that when a person puts their mind, heart and soul together for what is their ultimate goal, it is something that can take a life of it’s own when you have total buy-in.  This statement is not just a line, but the truth about a remarkable young lady from the Ukraine that made her indelible mark in her adopted country, the United States of America.  

A native of the Ukraine who ultimately came to the United States via the generosity and love of an adoptive parent, Gay Masters at the age of 7 1/2.  The adoption of Oksana could have taken place as early as 5 years old but due to geo-politics that prevented Americans from adopting Ukrainian/Russian children her journey was delayed for a few years.

Once in America, Oksana and Gay lived in Buffalo, NY where her mom was a professor at the University of Buffalo.  Oksana had been born with birth defects as a direct cause of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl and ultimately in the United States her mom had to make the tough choice to amputate both of her legs above the knee because her legs were not able to bear weight on them.  Her first procedure was on her left leg at age 9 and her right leg at age 12.  During her childhood, she also had her hands surgically opened up because when she was born all of the digits were fused together.  Oksana would now be able to have usable thumbs which would allow her to be able to grip and use her hands in a more productive manner.

At age 13, Oksana had been urged to try sports and she gave it a try.  She and her mom moved from Buffalo to Louisville, KY as her mom got another professorship this time at the University of Louisville.  Upon getting to Louisville, Oksana ultimately found a love of being on the water and the sport of rowing.  With rowing, the sport relied upon upper torso strength primarily and Oksana was able to use that part of her body with no limitation.  Rowing became not only a love, but something that she could excel at on the banks of the Ohio River at home in Louisville.  

Her journey in rowing ultimately led her to the USA Rowing and their paralympic program in 2011.  With partner, Rob Jones who suffered an IED explosion while in the Marine Corps, the two of them competed as a team in Trunk and Arm Double Sculls with their eye on the London 2012 Paralympic Games.  With a Gold medal in the 2012 Samsung World Rowing Cup III this punched their ticket to London.  At the Paralympics, the two of them were not considered to be a contender for a medal but that did not stop them from winning a Bronze medal.

Photo Credit: AP Images - Sochi 2014

In the winter of 2012, Oksana was introduced to skiing for the first time and by the end of 2013 she got on snow for the first time.  Initially, she wanted to try downhill skiing, but the team at U.S. Paralympics thought because of her upper body strength in rowing that she would be best equipped for Nordic Cross Country.  This guidance ultimately was the right call and she has blown away the expectations that anyone could have ever had after she learned how to ski.  She is a winter ski athlete and then a rower in the summer months.  Oksana since her beginnings in the Nordic Skiing disciplines has done things American females haven’t done consistently in 20 years of World Cups, World Championship and the Paralympic Games; she wins medals.  Lots of them in fact.  Historically this discipline has been dominated by the Russians.  Today, since 2013, Oksana has won 2 Paralympic, 15 World Cup, 3 World Cup Final medals along with a World Cup Season Championship.

Photo Credit: Casey B Gibson 2014

In the summer of 2014, Oksana had been struggling with back issues related to rowing and thought to try another summer sport.  That summer sport she chose similar to skiing would utilize her muscular shoulders and core, would be hand cycling.  Still new to the sport, Oksana would study her competition and how they generated tremendous speed in road racing.  This study would pay off in her first full year in the sport with 2 Bronze World Cup medals and won a Bronze medal at the UCI Para-Cycling Worlds in her second attempt in 2015.  With the medal, the United States has qualified a position at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.  

IPC Nordic World Cup Champion 2014-15 & 2015-16

IPC Nordic World Cup Champion 2014-15 & 2015-16

Oksana in March of 2016 finished the IPC Nordic Cross Country World Cup season with a familiar position on the global stage.  She won her second consecutive Overall World Cup Championship.  At the World Cup Final, she swept the podium winning all 3 short, medium and long distance races.  For the Biathlon season, she picked up 2 medals as well.

In the Spring of 2016, she goes back to the U.S. Para-Cycling Team and will be training for qualification in Champaign, IL and Colorado Springs, CO.  U.S. Para-Cycling trials take place in Charlotte, NC the last week of June, first week of July.