PHOENIX, Arizona, September 19. JESSICA Long's first major post-Paralympics plan was to find her birth parents, and it appears the quest to locate them has already come to a happy ending.
Long, who was born Tatiana Kirillova to Russian parents and raised in the United States since she was 13 months old, publicly announced before the London Paralympics her desire to locate her birth mother. A journalist with the Siberian Times started that search early, tracking down Long's biological parents, Natalia and Oleg Valtyshev, who had watched her daughter earn eight medals at the Paralympics without knowing it was the daughter she gave up for adoption 20 years ago. The reporter also uncovered a younger sister, named Anastasia.
The mother said she was “scared” at the prospect of raising a daughter who was born without the fibula bone in her legs, and gave her up for adoption with the hope that she would be able to reclaim her in a few years. After being adopted by Beth and Steve Long from a Russian orphanage, Long's legs were amputated and she learned at an early age to walk with prostheses. That led to a historic Paralympic career that includes 16 medals, 12 of them gold.
Last night on her Facebook page, Long not only added her original birth name to her profile, but posted a statement, saying “I am excited about meeting my Russian family, but I need a little more time. Some reporters want me to call them or talk to them on Skype, but I feel like we should meet for the first time face-to-face. I would like to travel to Russia next year which is what I was planning even before my family was found. Until then there is a lot for me to think about. So many emotions! Thanks for your support and prayers.”
Natalya Valtyshev, who was 18 when she gave birth to her daughter, said doctors suggested that she leave her daughter at the hospital, knowing she could not adequately take care of a disabled newborn. She said she named her daughter Tatiana after her oldest sister.
In a sign of embracing her Russian background, Long told reporters recently that she would like to name her daughter Natalia.