Hall of Fame Inductee
Oksana Masters was born in Ukraine with complications that later were linked to nuclear radiation exposure. After being given up for adoption, Masters would go on to live in three different Ukrainian orphanages. At age 7, Masters was adopted by Gay Masters, an American woman who was a single parent and lived in Buffalo, New York.
Ultimately, her birth complications would lead to above-the-knee amputation of both of her legs. The left leg was removed at age 9, then her right leg at age 14. It was between the two amputations that Masters, and her mother, would move to Louisville, Kentucky, where she was introduced to rowing. The sport offered her a new sense of freedom and she fell in love with it.
In 2011, Masters met her rowing partner, Rob Jones, who had lost both legs while serving for the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. They competed in the Paralympic Games London 2012, winning a Bronze. After a back injury forced her to retire from rowing in 2013, she was introduced to cross-country skiing. Masters spent 6 months learning the sport, and eventually qualified and competed at the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, winning a Silver in the 12-kilometer and a Bronze in the 5-kilometer.
Masters had the opportunity to try hand cycling in 2014. After just a few months of training, she qualified, competed, and earned a Bronze at the 2015 UCI Para-Cycling World Championships in the Road Race event. Masters then qualified and competed for the U.S. Para-Cycling Team at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, placing 4th in the road race and 5th in the timed trial.
Despite an elbow dislocation only a few weeks before the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, Masters claimed her first Paralympic Gold by winning the cross-country skiing women’s 1.5 km sprint classical event and followed up with another Gold in the 5km sitting event. Masters also won a Bronze medal in the women’s 12km sitting event, and in the Paralympic biathlon event she also won two Silver medals in the 6km & 12km sitting events respectively.
During the 2019 calendar year while balancing cross-country, biathlon and cycling, Masters pulled off a rare feat winning 5 golds & a silver at the ParaNordic World Championship, the Overall Nordic Cross Country World Cup title and 2 silver medals at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championship.
After the delay of Tokyo 2020 due to the pandemic, Masters overcame a surgical procedure 100 days to Tokyo 2020 and was able to capture her first Paralympic summer medal in the hand cycling 24.5km time trial winning Gold and 24 hours later in the grueling 66km road race she repeated the feat with her 2nd Paralympic Gold medal.
With a six month turnaround between Tokyo 2020ne and Beijing 2022 with a World Championship in ParaNordic in between, Oksana was able to overcome omicron at the cusp of the World Championship missing training for over a week and was able to capture 2 Gold, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze in Cross Country and Biathlon leading Team USA in the medal count. Six weeks later as the war began in her native Ukraine and with her heart and mind torn to compete or not, Masters dedicated her performance to her native land winning 3 Gold & 4 Silver for Team USA. Her performance in Beijing made her the All-Time Leader for U.S. Olympic & Paralympic athletes at the Winter Games with 14. Her overall total is 17 medals in four different Paralympic Games sports over 6 consecutive summer and winter Games.
Masters’ favorite quote is Coco Chanel’s line, “to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” On her accomplishments and career, Masters says “I am so thankful I have been given a ‘second chance’ in life through my amazing family and the opportunity to fulfill my passion and hunger for racing and competing.”