With cycling gold, Oksana Masters is a Paralympic medalist in four sports

Oksana Masters celebrates on the podium after winning gold in the women's H4-5 cycling time trial at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics
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Update: On Wednesday in Tokyo, Oksana Masters claimed her second Paralympic gold medal in as many races, winning the women’s cycling road race H5. Video of that race can be viewed here.

Originally Published: August 31, 2021

On Tuesday at the Tokyo Paralympics, Oksana Masters claimed gold in women’s H4-5 cycling time trial. She crossed the line in 45:40.05 to earn her ninth Paralympic medal in her fourth sport, having previously won medals in rowing, cross-country skiing, and biathlon.

China’s Sun Bianbian claimed silver and the Netherlands’ Jennette Jansen earned bronze. (A highlight can be viewed here.)

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: Oksana Masters is one of the world’s greatest athletes. But she isn’t fearless

Masters said the result was simultaneously years in the making – and a total surprise.

“This was not expected. I was just trying to hold on and fight for third place,” the 32-year-old Masters told Olympic Information Service after the race. “I never in a million years thought I would be fighting for a gold medal at all. At Tokyo 2020. In cycling.”

Oksana Masters competing in the women's H4-5 cycling time trial at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics.
Tokyo, Japan – Oksana Masters competing in the women’s H4-5 cycling time trial at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics. (Photo by Moto Yoshimura/Getty Images)

Back in May, Masters had surgery to remove a tumor from her femur. “There is still a small crack in the door to make it to Tokyo and you better believe I am determined to make it” she wrote on Instagram in early June.

Masters crashed in her race at U.S. Paralympic Trials later that month, but was ultimately named to the U.S. team for Tokyo thanks to her results at other international competitions. Earlier this week, she wrote that just reaching the Tokyo Paralympics was “a win in itself.”

While Masters was admittedly shocked by her result in Tokyo, she also acknowledged that she had been working towards this moment for the last five years. At the 2016 Rio Paralympics, she finished just off the podium in both cycling events she entered, placing fourth in the H5 road race and fifth in the H4-5 time trial.

After today’s race, she said she had been dreaming about this moment since “the day after I crossed the finish line in Rio 2016 in fifth place.”

Masters continued: “I knew what I did wrong and I wanted to fix. It just means more to me being able to have an amazing incredible race regardless of the result or the medal color – to know that I fixed my wrongs from Rio and that I’m growing as a cyclist.”

Oksana Masters’ journey to become a Paralympic cycling gold medalist

This is only the most recent comeback story for Masters, who was born in 1989 with birth defects believed to be from the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. She spent the first seven years of her life shuffling between Ukrainian orphanages until she was adopted by an American mother, Gay, who had to wait two-and-a-half years to bring her daughter to the United States due to a moratorium on foreign adoptions.

When Masters was 13 years old, she and her mom moved to Lexington, Kentucky, which is where she was introduced to rowing. Ten years later, she made her Paralympic debut at the 2012 London Games, winning rowing bronze with Rob Jones, a retired U.S. Marine Sergeant.

But one year after London, Masters broke her back – an injury that put her rowing career on hold.

She began cross-country skiing “almost by accident” after she was introduced to a Nordic skiing coach. Fourteen months later, she made her Paralympic debut in that sport at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, winning two medals: a silver and a bronze.

Oksana Masters of the United States competes in the Women's Cross Country 5km - Sitting at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Winter Games
SOCHI, RUSSIA – Oksana Masters of the United States competes in the Women’s Cross Country 5km – Sitting at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Winter Games (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

After she claimed four world titles in 2017, expectations were even higher heading into the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympics.

Just weeks before the PyeongChang Games, she dislocated her elbow after slipping on a patch of ice. Suddenly, her Paralympic outlook was much less certain.

Still, Masters showed up to the start line in South Korea, winning a silver, and then a bronze, in her first two races. But in her third event – the biathlon 10km sitting competition – she re-injured her elbow in a crash and did something she hates: withdrew from the race.

Twenty-four hours later, with the help of team doctors, she was back on the snow for the cross-country sprint. She posted the fastest time in both her qualifying and semifinal round heats before claiming her first Paralympic gold medal in the final.

Six months from now, Masters is aiming to defend that gold medal at the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics.

But at the moment, she said she’s focused on Tokyo. She has one individual race remaining in Tokyo: the women’s H5 road race, which is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Tokyo (Tuesday night in the United States).

“Right now I’m just so lucky to be here lining up on the start line here in Tokyo,” she said.

RELATED: Oksana Masters dominates to medal in her fourth sport, win first summer Paralympic gold

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How to watch the Tokyo Paralympics

NBC will provide over 1,200 hours of Paralympic coverage. Here are some highlights:

  • A full Paralympic TV schedule (which includes an overview of coverage on NBC, NBCSN and Olympic Channel) can be found here.
  • Events can also be livestreamed on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. More info is available here.

OL Reign wins 2022 NWSL Shield, Gotham denies Thorns

OL Reign players and coaches celebrate on the field
Stephen Brashear USA TODAY Sports
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The OL Reign won the 2022 NWSL Shield on Saturday with a 3-0 win against the Orlando Pride — and more than a little help from Gotham FC.

Heading into Saturday’s slate of games, it appeared likely that the Portland Thorns would walk away with the regular season title. The Thorns controlled their own destiny; all they had to do was beat Gotham, the last-ranked team in the league.

Instead, Gotham scored more goals on against the No. 1 team in the league than it had in its past eight games combined, coming back from a two-goal deficit to finish with a 3-3 draw.

Gotham goalie Michelle Betos said the team heard the NWSL was bringing the Shield trophy to Red Bull Arena — a rumor that turned out not to be true — but the impact was the same.

“We didn’t want that to be celebrated on our field,” Betos said.

“No one celebrates on our field, except for us,” echoed Ifeoma Onumonu.

“It’s definitely a painful one right now,” said Portland head coach Rhian Wilkinson. “Gotham came out to deliver a performance that they could put a full stop on a very challenging season. I thought it was really one of our weaker games all season, which is the frustration.”

Midge Purce had a particularly strong showing for Gotham just days after not being named to the latest USWNT roster.

“I think Midge Purce had a great game, and she caused a lot of problems,” Portland and USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn said.

After Portland squandered its opportunity to clinch the Shield, the OL Reign were on a mission.

“You can imagine the energy that was in the locker room before the start of the game, just knowing what was on the line,” said Megan Rapinoe. “Having everything in our hands is exactly how we wanted it.”

It was Rapinoe, in her 100th appearance, who put the Reign up 1-0 in the eighth minute. Jordyn Huitema and Bethany Balcer also notched tallies in the 3-0 win.

The win marks the OL Reign’s third NWSL Shield and first since 2015. Each OL Reign player will receive a $10,000 bonus after sponsor Carmax pledged to double the Shield prize money from the CBA minimum of $5,000.

The crowd of 10,746 at Lumen Field also broke the club’s largest standalone attendance record.

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Crystal Dunn returns to USWNT roster five months after giving birth

Nigeria v USWNT
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Crystal Dunn was named to the USWNT roster for two upcoming friendlies against England and Spain, marking her first official selection since giving birth to son Marcel in May.

Dunn made her NWSL return with the Portland Thorns earlier this month and also trained with the U.S. team as a non-rostered player ahead of friendlies vs. Nigeria.

In addition to Dunn, the 24-player roster features a veteran core of Alyssa Naeher, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, and Megan Rapinoe.

Alex Morgan was not named to the USWNT roster due to a knee injury. While U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski did not provide details of the injury, he noted that “if this was a World Cup final, Alex was going to be on this trip and was going to play, no question.”

Other roster highlights include 17-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who becomes the first player born in 2004 to receive a USWNT call-up. Thomas, a high senior, plays club soccer for the U-17 Total Futbol Academy boys’ team.

“We are very excited for her, very excited about her potential and qualities and looking forward to seeing how she will turn out in our environment,” Andonovski said of Thompson. “This camp is not make it or break it. It’s a first experience for her, it’s just something that she shouldn’t even worry about.”

The USWNT also includes a handful of players who have made their USWNT breakthrough this season — thanks in part to both strong NWSL play and injuries to more veteran players. That list includes the likes of Naomi Girma (7 caps), Taylor Kornieck (5 caps), Hailie Mace (5 caps), Sam Coffey (1 cap), and Savannah DeMelo (0 caps).

Andonovski on Thursday called Coffey, a midfielder for the Portland Thorns, a candidate for NWSL MVP.


USWNT Roster for October 2022 Friendlies vs. England and Spain

Goalkeepers (3):

  • Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit)
  • Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)
  • Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders(7):

  • Alana Cook (OL Reign)
  • Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Sofia Huerta (OL Reign)
  • Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

Midfielders (8):

  • Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA)
  • Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)
  • Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
  • Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)
  • Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

Forwards (6):

  • Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
  • Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)
  • Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
  • Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC