US Paralympic athletes depart for Japan from O’Hare

Japan 2020

CHICAGO — As travel picks back up at O’Hare International Airport, a new adventure for a veteran Paralympic athlete begins at Gate C16.

“It’s been five years, the day is finally here,” Paralympian Jessica Long said.

Long is about to leave for her fifth Paralympic Games. Born in Russia, she was adopted by an American family in Maryland, and became a superstar athlete.

“When I swim, I can take off my two prosthetic legs and I feel so strong and capable, and it’s one of the most freeing experiences,” Long said.

It’s confidence that has led her to win 24 medals so far, the second most in Team USA history.

The Paralympic Games, usually held in the weeks following the Olympic Games, were also delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic by a year.

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For Long and other athletes, it was that much more time to prepare.

“We found people who are exactly like us and we compete on an elite level and it’s so exciting. I think when people watch the Paralympics they fall in love with it instantly,” Long said.

For Long, this trip represents another chance, in a changed world, to show the world how much she and hundreds of others on her team offer.

“My advice is to just enjoy it, it’s going to go by so fast. We’ve been training for this five years so in those three weeks, it’s going to fly by. So take it all in and be so proud that you’re a part of Team USA,” Long said.

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