PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Twenty years in the past, it could have been exhausting to think about Eight-year-old Oksana Masters — three toes tall, 35 kilos, no thumbs and misshapen legs — included in an NBC montage of the world’s finest athletes, or having her face plastered on prepare station posters.
However Masters, now 28, is anticipated to be one of the vital seen and standard athletes on the Paralympic Video games right here this month. She is featured in commercials for Toyota and Proctor & Gamble that showcase her energy and resilience as that uncommon athlete who wins medals in each Winter and Summer time Video games. Her good friend Mikaela Shiffrin, the celebrity skier and Olympic gold medalist, not too long ago posted an Instagram photograph wishing her luck.
Masters’s emergence as one of many greater and better-compensated stars in U.S. Olympic sports activities illustrates how an athlete’s back-story — and the social and conventional media buzz it could possibly generate — could be as vital as what transpires on the sphere of play, and even the competitors through which she is collaborating. And few athletes have a back-story as compelling and aspirational as Masters, who has already been featured in Sports activities Illustrated and posed nude for ESPN The Journal.
Masters’s agent Brant Feldman, who additionally represents different Olympic athletes who would kill for Masters’s sponsor portfolio, mentioned she needs to point out folks which will appear like her that they’ll nonetheless aspire to something even in case you don’t have legs. “These manufacturers have allowed her to convey that message on the market,” he mentioned.
On the video games themselves, Masters, a double amputee and nordic skier, plans to enter as many as six occasions. It’s a exceptional load for any athlete. However it’s one which Masters, a multisport athlete who additionally competed on the Paralympic Video games in London (rowing), Sochi (cross-country snowboarding) and Rio (biking), is greater than geared up to deal with.
Born in Ukraine in 1989 with extreme bodily defects probably associated to radiation poisoning from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, Masters was given up for adoption at start. She spent her first seven and a half years within the nation’s troubled orphanage system, the place malnourishment and emotional and bodily abuse have been widespread. Youngsters have been bullied by older orphans, and exploited by adults.