The Highland Middle School and Atherton High School graduate who discovered her love of athletics as a teenager while rowing on the Ohio River competed Monday in the Paralympic cycling time trial in Toyko, Japan.
The 32-year-old multi sport athlete now has a gold medal in the Paralympic cycling event to add to her collection. She finished with a time of 45:40:05 for 24 kilometers and won by a landslide, finishing 1 minute and 46 seconds ahead of anyone else.
Before the competition Masters posted on Instagram, “Regardless of my results here; getting here is a win in itself! I’ll be racing to celebrate life and the thousands of second chances I’ve been given through it. Even though it may feel like the only view sometimes is looking up against the uphill battle in front of you; the view from the destination, no matter where it is, will be worth it!”
Masters is a double amputee who competes in the H5 division of cycling events. The H stands for handcyclists. Athletes in the H5 division use bikes that facilitate a kneeling or sitting position. The time trial Monday was held on an undulating 8km time trial course within the Fuji International Speedway complex.
Prior to the games in Toyko the multi-sport star won a combined eight Paralympic medals as a rower and Nordic skier. But until Monday, all of her Paralympic medals have come outside of cycling.
Four years ago in Rio, Masters fell just short of the podium, finishing fourth in the road race and fifth in the time trial.
Born in Ukraine in 1989 with severe physical defects most likely related to radiation poisoning from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Masters spent the first seven years of her life in the country’s troubled orphanage system, where malnutrition and emotional and physical abuse were common.
She was adopted by Gay Masters, a former speech pathologist at the University of Louisville, and brought to the United States, where she discovered her love of rowing. She rowed throughout her four years at Atherton High school and then partnered with Rob Jones, also a double-amputee athlete.
The pair won the Bronze Olympic medal in the trunk and arms mixed double sculls event at the London Olympics in 2012. When the summer games ended, Masters turned her sights to the winter Olympics and began skiing immediately after London. With just over a year to learn and train for two new sports, she competed in cross country skiing and the biathlon at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi and brought home silver and bronze medals.
Due to a back injury after Sochi, Masters took up hand cycling as a recovery process and to help maintain her fitness. A few years ago, Masters moved to Southern Illinois to train on the easily accessible country roads.
If you missed Masters’ race Monday which streamed on the NBC Sports App, her Paralympic competitions aren’t over just yet. Tuesday she races the cycling road race.
All road races (except the mixed team relay) take place on a 13.2km (approximately 8 miles) circuit that starts and finishes at the Fuji International Speedway. It’s a lumpy circuit, defined by a 3.5km (approx. 2 miles) climb to the finish line.