Paralympic gold medalist Jessica Long has inspired an audience of millions, sharing her powerful real-life story of resilience and love in an ad for the Super Bowl’s half-time show.
Now, the double-amputee and second-most decorated Paralympian of all time has spoken out about the advertisement, widely hailed as the best of 2021.
Long, 28, candidly told her TikTok audience of 780,400 followers she was still “freaking out” about the video airing.
“I think they captured my story so beautifully,” she continued, pointing to her favourite scene in the advertisement, featuring a young version of her as a swimmer.
“It means so much to me that my story was shared,” she said.
The one-minute clip, launched by car company Toyota, chronicles the swimmer’s experiences of adoption and disability, culminating in the captivating tagline: We believe there is hope and strength in all of us.
In the ad, the Paralympian is featured swimming, diving into her experience as an orphan.
As Long swims, the clip shows her adoptive parents on the phone to an agency, learning about a baby girl that needs a new home.
While on the phone, the parents learn “there’s some things you need to know,” revealing Long was born in Siberia with “a rare condition.”
A flashback in the video shows Long learning to walk with crutches and prosthetic legs, before diving into a pool and swimming.
As Long swims in the clip, the adoptive agency can be overheard saying, “I know this is difficult to hear. Her life won’t be easy.”
In response, Long’s mother replies: “It might not be easy, but it’ll be amazing. I can’t wait to meet her.”
The ad concludes with the message: “We believe there is hope and strength in all of us.”
Social media users praised the ad and Long’s story, calling the commercial among their favourite of the night.
“This #SuperBowl ad filled my heart — Thank you to the creative team @Toyota and @JessicaLong,” one person tweeted.
“The best #SuperBowl commercial so far has been Toyota’s ad about the Special Olympics athlete. Hit me right in the feels,” shared another.
Many found the ad’s story of triumph through adversity touching, as the US passes the grim milestone of the over 400,000 deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The depth of this clip is amazing! So inspirational,” said one person.
“Best commercial by far… brought everyone I know to tears. Being adopted myself hit extra hard,” shared another.
The renowned athlete was adopted from a Russian orphanage at 13 months old, and underwent a double amputation procedure at 18 months old.
According to the Paralympic International Committee, Long first made her Paralympic debut in 2014, when she was just 12, becoming the youngest member of the US Paralympics team.
She later became the second most-decorated Paralympian in 2016, when she left the Rio Paralympics with 23 medals.
She was named the 2011-12 Paralympic Sports Woman of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee, after winning eight medals at London 2012.