With the Paralympic Games about to get underway, we asked a number of athletes how they found the sport they love.

Three weeks after injuring her elbow and one day after suffering a fall and withdrawing from a race, Oksana Masters won gold at the Paralympics. 

Masters, a four-time Paralympian, won the cross-country sprint Wednesday in Pyeongchang to bring her career total to six medals in four Games. She won the 1.1-kilometer race by more than two seconds over runner-up Andrea Eksau of Germany. 

“I did not believe this would happen,” Masters said after the race, according to a news release. “I knew that I wasn’t going to let yesterday be my last race. I couldn’t believe it, but at the same time, I knew I had it in me to dig deep a couple more times. I could not have done this without the USOC medical staff.”

She was forced to withdraw from Tuesday’s middle-distance biathlon event after falling in the race. Earlier in the Games, she won silver in the biathlon sprint and bronze in a cross-country 12K.

The 28-year-old from Louisville was born in Ukraine with significant birth defects to her limbs as a result of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.  She was adopted at age 7 by an American mother, Gay Masters. 

Masters would have both legs amputated, her left at age 9 and the right at 14.

She initially took up rowing as a teenager and made her first Paralympic team in 2012. With Rob Jones, Masters won a bronze medal in mixed sculls at the London Games. She took up Nordic skiing after London and made the team for Sochi. At the Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, she competed in cycling. 

This season she started off on a roll, winning three gold medals in biathlon at the first World Cup in Canmore, Alberta. But a fall on the ice in Montana, where she was training, kept her off snow for about a week in the lead-up to Pyeongchang. 

Before the Games, she wrote on social media that she was thankful for the opportunity to compete.

“I’m not chasing medals, I’m chasing after my dream of representing my country, any young girl who was ever told she would be too small to be an athlete, anyone who was ever told it would be impossible to comeback from an injury and still compete at an Olympic and Paralympic Games,” she wrote on Instagram. “I’m going to live my ‘impossible’ and embrace what’s to come. In the end this will all make me a stronger athlete and person.”

In the men’s sitting cross-country sprint, Andy Soule won his first gold medal in a photo finish. Soule, an Army veteran, also won bronze in South Korea in the biathlon middle-distance race. 


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