Paralympic rower and cross-country skier Oksana Masters, 32, is gearing up for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, which start on Aug. 24, and reminiscing on the challenges she had to go through to get there, including an unexpected surgery on her leg. The Ukrainian-American athlete spoke EXCLUSIVELY to HollywoodLife well-nigh her journey in preparing, both mentally and physically, for the games, which were supposed to take place last year surpassing the COVID-19 pandemic postponed them.
Check our interview with the Paralympic multiple medal-winner below.
HollywoodLife: Aside from the pandemic postponing the Tokyo games, you had unexpected leg surgery this year. How did you mentally prepare to get over that last setback?
What went through your mind when you were told that you had to have surgery so tropical to the Paralympics?
I was a wreck. I felt like I was losing all of the work I’ve done. Without making big gains and having surprisingly unconfined results from the first World Cup in Belgium, I felt like it was just thrown out the window and I lost any endangerment I had to make the team and to modernize my performance from Rio in Tokyo. The day of my surgery was extremely nonflexible increasingly mentally. It was exactly on the 100 days out triumph for the Tokyo Paralympics. I will never forget posting on social media my excitement for the hundred days out withal with sharing my sponsors excitement for the Tokyo Paralympics with tears in my vision as I was in pre-op getting ready to have a big surgery. Plane though the timing was not ideal, it was a nomination I had to make to put my health and quality of life in front of my sturdy goals.
I knew I was not washed-up stuff an athlete I was not washed-up representing team USA and crossing new finish lines. My first words out of the surgery was, “Am I ready for Tokyo?” Plane though it felt impossible, I knew my chances would stay untellable if I didn’t plane try. I had to shift my focus to healing and executive what I could. Anything else would be wasted energy.
Who was your biggest support during your recovery?
My biggest support during the recovery was my mom my boyfriend Aaron Pike. My mom was there by my side in the hospital, sleeping there with her shoes on ready to go for any middle of the night wake up calls. My boyfriend Aaron, who is moreover a Paralympic athlete and is moreover training for his fifth Paralympic games in Tokyo, was a life saver and an incredible support. I was not worldly-wise to wear my prosthetic legs for well-nigh 10 weeks and he gave me his wheelchair that he relies on every day for me to use. I unchangingly knew he was unchangingly that type of a person who would requite you the shirt off his when if someone needed it and I am the luckiest girl in the world to have such an wondrous boyfriend who literally gave me his wheelchair to use while he was using his friend’s chair. Although he moreover did enjoy making fun of me for not knowing how to use a wheelchair but moreover gave me tips on how to push a wheelchair. I lost count of how many times I snot cried on his shoulder and he was right there by my side no matter what hour of the day.
Did you overly think you wouldn’t make it to Tokyo?
Oh my gosh, yes! Especially when what was supposed to be a three-day stay in the hospital without surgery turned into an 11-day stay. As an athlete, you train to reset your mind when plan A, B, and C don’t work out. In some ways, I finger like this was a way for me to make my mind plane stronger. Training your mind is just as important as physical training. I took this as an opportunity to switch perspectives and squint for areas I can protract to be stronger in. In the moments I felt like I wasn’t going to make the Tokyo team, I really held on to what my coaches from both U.S. Para Nordic ski team and U.S. Paracycling team told me, which is, plane though it will finger like it at first, I wouldn’t be starting over 100% considering of all of the years and hours I’ve been training and racing in the past. It’s going to hurt, it won’t be easy but it’s possible. All I needed to hear was that it was possible and doable if I stick to the road map my doctors and the USOPC created.
Where does your strength of weft and determination come from?
I truly believe it is from my mom, although she will say it’s not from her, I just was born with it. I think it’s a combination of experiencing the diaper I had from an early age in three variegated orphanages, needing to fight for everything and starting from nothing, to my mom stuff an wondrous example of resilience and determination and how to never requite up like she never gave up on me.
What are you looking forward to the most at the Tokyo games this year?
I am so excited to race on the formula one race track in Fuji. As a cyclist, my strength is in climbing, and this undertow will have some good climbs that will rencontre me. I am moreover just so excited to be a part of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Team for U.S. Paracycling then and get a endangerment to modernize my results from Rio 2016 and cheer on my teammates.
What are your feelings well-nigh the steps that have been taken to pension the athletes unscratched tween the COVID-19 pandemic?
Hosting a Paralympic Games under a pandemic is extremely challenging and I am very impressed by how the organizing committee and the host country of Tokyo is going whilom and vastitude to ensure the athletes safety as well as the safety of all the volunteers and the staff and race organizers. We are definitely in unchartered territory racing in a pandemic but I finger the steps the Tokyo Organizing Committee has taken are exactly what is needed to finger and be safe. Not having spectators, fans, friends, and families stuff worldly-wise to cheer us on is nonflexible but it’s worth it when you think well-nigh everyone’s health. At the end of the day, that is what is important and what truly matters.
Which member of Team USA are you closest to and why?
I am very tropical with Aaron Pike, obviously, considering he is my boyfriend of seven years and sports is what brought us together, but I am moreover tropical with one of his track teammates, Brian Siemann. He moreover was an wondrous support through my recovery and made sure I had plenty of coloring books and a puzzle to pension me sane. Plane though all of my training is 100 percent on my own, their mentor Adam Bleakney has helped me on my velocipede and lets me join some of their track workouts where I help pull them surpassing my workout. On my Cycling team, I’m tropical with Jill Walsh, who is moreover my birthday twin. She makes me laugh increasingly than I overly thought I could and is the toughest and kindest person you’ll overly meet.
You are a mythological rower and cyclist. You ski, you shoot. What’s your favorite event and why?
It’s unchangingly nonflexible to pick a favorite event. Rowing will unchangingly have a special place in my heart. I was forced out of that sport due to an injury. Every event has its own elements that I love. I think I really love Nordic skiing considering the elements of the conditions are unchangingly changing. Unlike a track or a pool, where it’s a stable environment, the snow changes from lap to lap. I love that element considering it forces you to stay on your toes and constantly challenges you and forces you to transmute mentally and physically. Especially in navigate country, where qualifiers start in the morning and the finals are in the afternoon. The conditions make that undertow finger and ski completely different.
I moreover love the Time Trial in cycling. I am still so bad at it but it’s a race where it’s you versus the clock. It’s the ultimate test, physically and mentally.
What and/or who are you going to miss the most when you’re in Tokyo and why?
I am really really going to miss having my mom in Tokyo. Plane though if she was there I wouldn’t be worldly-wise to see her until without my events, it’s the thought of knowing she’s right there in the same country with me. I moreover know my mom is one of those people that will get up in the middle of the night to watch me race and she does that with all of my events from the World Cup to the Paralympic Games.
To learn increasingly about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. The Tokyo Paralympics uncork August 24th on NBC.