13-time champion Paralympian Jessica Long will be looking to add to her medal tally at her fifth Paralympics in Tokyo. Long needs 22 more medals to equal Trischa Zorn’s Paralympic record. We aren’t putting it past her, but it will take a monumental effort for her to get to 55 overall medals.
Long wouldn’t be at the Paralympic games without her adoptive parent’s motivation. “I became what I am now thanks to my parents,” Jessica told The Siberian Times. “I can run, ride my bicycle, live normal life as everybody does.”
Long’s adoptive parents, Beth and Steve Long, have supported Jessica in a journey that started in Siberia, Russia.
Jessica was adopted by her American parents Beth and Steve Long, after her biological Russian parents gave her up
Jessica Long was born Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova in Bratsk, Russia, on 29th February 1992 to Natalia and Oleg Valtyshev. Long was born premature with fibular hemimelia, a condition characterized by underdeveloped bones below the knee.
Natalia and Oleg were forced to give Jessica up by the doctors at the hospital. The doctors opined that the poor teenagers couldn’t take care of the disabled child. “I was alone in Siberia, without my mother and father,” Natalia said on Russian television.
“Where would I go with her, if I had taken her? Doctors told me to leave her behind- said that I could not help her. I called her Tatiana, after my elder sister.”
The decision, though painful, made sense. “Of course I was against leaving her in the hospital but because of the circumstances we had to,” Natalia added. The pair hoped that once their financial situation improved, they would go back for Tatiana.
Before that could happen, however, Beth and Steve Long adopted her along with another Russian child at the orphanage. Beth and Steve set out to help Jessica as quickly as possible. Steve said:
“We thought she was an orphan. And she had serious problems with legs. We turned to many professionals in order to solve this problem. We really wanted to help her as much as possible.”
In hindsight, Natalia feels that adoption was the best option for Jessica. She told Russian television that she couldn’t have done what Beth and Steve did for Long Jessica acknowledges that without Beth and Steve, she wouldn’t be the champion she is today. She said:
“My father does a lot for me, he supports me and he always did, especially when I just began to go into sports and it was hard for me. I became what I am now thanks to my parents.”
Long met her Russian family and expressed delight at meeting her siblings
After finding out that she has family in Russia, Long traveled to her native Siberia to meet them. “I am not angry with her [Natalia],” Long said. “I just want to meet her. I think we have a lot in common. I know that one day I will have a family and I will have kids, and you know what, I would like to call my daughter Natalia, the name of my Russian mother who gave birth to me.”
Natalia and Oleg married and went on to have three children. Jessica’s sister, Nastya, was also disabled, but Natalie and Oleg refused to give up a second child. Long couldn’t hide her delight when she met her biological parents and siblings. According to The Siberian Times, Jessica said:
“I am glad that I came. I am not disappointed in anything. I met my sister Nastya, and I saw that I looked very much like her. Nastya is just a year younger than I am. I gave her an elegant bracelet as a gift. It matches her hair perfectly. I also gave a necklace to my mother and a Russian-language Bible to my father.”
Jessica will line up for the United States in Tokyo, but she will have one Russian family in Siberia cheering her on. “Thank you for all the love and support from Russia,” Jessica tweeted following her success at the London Olympics.