Jessica Tatiana Long: The mermaid who rose to the challenge | Sunday Observer

Jessica Tatiana Long: The mermaid who rose to the challenge

5 September, 2021

Jessica Long, born on February 29, 1992 in Bratsk , Russia has become an unrivalled Paralympic swimmer who rose from a sea of tears and hardships. She holds many world records and competed at five Paralympics games winning 25 medals. But She is rare for many reasons. She was born with a rare condition called Fibular hemimelia. She did not have most of the bones in her legs. Her parents are said to be an unmarried teenage couple were supposed to be 17 and 18 years old. They were afraid that they would not be able to look after her. They abandoned little Jessica to foster care. She fell from the frying pan in to the fire. She was brought up in an unknown place.

However, fortunately, Beth and Steve who hail from America decided to adopt little Jessica. Thus dawned days of hope for little Jessica. At the age of 18 months Jessica underwent an operation. Doctors amputated her legs in order to improve her mobility with prosthetic legs. At that time, no one would have thought that little Jessica will be a Paralympic record holder. Her adoptive parents allowed her to be involved in sports such as gymnastic, Ice staking , rock climbing and trampolining.

Jessica Long ‘ s journey

She began to swim in her grandparents’ pool before joining her first competitive team in 2002. In 2003, at the age of 12, Jessica was selected as ‘Maryland’s female swimmer of the year’. Being a determined swimmer, she dedicated herself to the sport despite her disability. Finally, she entered the international arena at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece and won three gold medals in swimming. Surprisingly, Jessica was the youngest on the US Paralympic team. Jessica, though younger than everyone , could distinguish herself as a challenging competitor.

She won nine gold medals for her performance in seven individual medleys and two relays at the 2006 International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championship in Durban, South Africa. The amazing fact is that she broke five world records and became the first paralympic athlete to be selected as the AAU’S’ James E. Sullivan Award’ winner. In addition, she was honoured as the US Olympic Committee’s 2006 ‘Paralympian of the year. Furthermore, in Brazil she won one gold , three silvers and a bronze. But she struggled with her own identity saying that she had failed to perform well. She said, “It is really easy to say that a gold medal does not define you , but when you are used to a certain level of performance and then you don’t have it. It is really easy to feel that lack of worth.” She is a determined female swimmer. She started to coach local girls with the aim of staying in touch with the sport. It is a well known fact that she did not have wonderful childhood memories. Once she had said, “My childhood was hard and painful , there are sports of my childhood I don’t remember because I was going in and out of surgeries so much. Obviously, as noted by doctors, she had undergone many operations. Swimming has become a part of her life. Even in sorrow and joy she spent her life with a great adherence to swimming. “ I only got into swimming because I was a very angry child “, it was where I let out my anger and frustration but It was also where I feel free and capable.” She said.

Reunion with parents

It is true that in this world miracles happen. Finally Jessica went to Russia to meet her parents. Amazingly even her parents Natalia and Oleg Valtysheva might have never thought they would be fortunate enough to see their daughter with their own eyes. However, it happened so. “When I first saw my parents, I wanted them to know that I was not angry with them and that I was not upset that they gave me up for adoption” said Jessica. According to the Siberian Times , Jessica ‘ s biological parents had watched Jessica compete in the London Paralympics in 2012 , not knowing that she was their own daughter, Jessica.

However, Jessica’s mother Natalia confessed in a sad tone , “ I started dating Oleg when I was 16, My little girl was born pre-term and I was told that she would be an invalid for life and that she would be unable to walk. Doctors kept saying in one voice that I should give the baby up.” To be honest, Natalia and Oleg did not want to abandon their new born daughter, who they named Tanya, but his mother did not want to raise an ‘invalid’ child. Nastya is Natalia ‘ s second daughter. Even though she was diagnosed with an infantile cerebral paralysis , Natalia did not give he up. They all gathered together to celebrate their reunion. At the reunion, Nastya gave Jessica a ring. The ring Jessica received from her sister Nastya is a token of love.

In addition, there are lessons we can learn from Jessica. She uses her social media platforms to inspire discouraged people and athletes. Her opinion is that giving in to one’s disability in life is a weak attitude. Jessica is disseminating motivational messages with the intention of fueling the enthusiasm of people. Her objective is to shed a light on everyone through her tearful life story.

Indeed, the essence of Jessica’s lesson is that no one can hold you down as long as you believe in your talents and inner skills and that you will gain nothing and lose everything as long as you don’t believe in yourself.


Jessica’s achievements -:

01. 2013: ESPY for Best Female Athlete with a Disability

02. 2012: ESPY for Female Athlete with a Disability

03. 2012: Five gold medals (100m butterfly, 400m freestyle, 100m breaststroke, 200m indiv. medley, 100m freestyle); two silver medals (4x100m freestyle 34pts, 100m backstroke); bronze medal (4x100m medley 34pts) – International Paralympic Committee (IPC) – Paralympic Summer Games, London, England.

04. 2012: U.S. Paralympic Sports Woman of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee.

05. 2011: Disabled Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World magazine.

06. 2011: Six gold medals – Can-Am Open Swimming Championship, La Mirada, California.

07. 2011: Nine gold medals, four world records – Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships, Edmonton, Canada.

08. 2010: Seven gold medals, two silver medals, two world records – Swimming World Championships, Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

09. 2010: Six gold medals – Can-Am National Championships, San Antonio, Texas.

10. 2009: Four gold medals, four silver medals, four world records – Swimming World Championships 25m, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

11. 2008: Four gold medals, silver medal, bronze medal, three world records – Paralympic Games, Beijing, China.