Paralympian Jessica Long Talks about Healing, Forgiveness in New Film

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Jessica Long Photo Courtesy: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long’s journey to 23 medals and three ESPY awards involved a lot of pain, from the physical to the emotional. A new short film released Wednesday by I Am Second details Long’s struggles toward forming her identity as a person beyond being a top swimmer.

Long, born with fibular hemimelia, was born in Russia and given up for adoption by her mother. She grew up in Maryland where she developed a love for swimming at a young age. By age 12, she was part of the U.S. Paralympic Team’s delegation to the 2004 Games in Athens, winning three gold medals. She’s won 13 gold medals and 23 total medals across four Olympic Games, while becoming a sponsored professional athlete, an author and an international ambassador for Paralympic athletes.

Long continued to collect accolades, including 18 world records in a single year. But crafting her identity solely around what she’d accomplished in the pool didn’t offer the fulfillment she was looking for.

“My worth was in swimming. My identity was in swimming,” Jessica Long said. “But I realized I had no control over my life.”

Long’s voyage toward greater peace and self-acceptance came through her faith. One of the seminal moments in that journey came in 2013 when she met her birth mother in Russia, ahead of Long’s participation in coverage of the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games.

Watch Long’s I Am Second White Chair film here.

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