2016 Paralympics set to grow in global interest, with help from Jessica Long

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Jessica Long holds her paralympic gold medal

Jessica Long

It’s that time again – people are beginning to talk about the upcoming 2016 Olympics and Paralympics. Amid international controversy the Games are set to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and mark an expansion for the Paralympics, both in terms of the sports included and the amount of coverage.

Both para-canoe and paratriathlon will debut in 2016, with the number of para-canoe athletes almost equalling the number of canoe athletes, according to Team USA. In addition, the exponential increase in press coverage seen by the 2014 Sochi Paralympics will continue this coming year, with NBS Universal and USOC holding the media rights to the Paralympic Games and planning on upping the hours of coverage to over sixty, ten times the amount of coverage received by the London Paralympics. Online coverage will also be provided by Team USA and US Paralympics. With the average global citizen becoming increasingly aware of the Paralympics and its athletes, the Rio Games could bring the Paralympics to the forefront of international competitive sports.

One of the main contenders in bringing the Paralympics to broad attention is twenty-three year-old Jessica Long. She competed on the Olympic level for the first time in 2004 at the age of twelve, winning three gold medals. Currently holding seventeen Paralympic medals and ten world records, Rio will be Long’s fourth consecutive Games. Below is Long’s feature from the Team USA Road to London series. In it, she explains, “I was adopted at thirteen months, and I had my legs amputated at eighteen months, and two weeks later I was up around walking.” Long was born with fibular hemimelia, and was adopted from Russia after her biological mother, then single and sixteen years old, gave her up for adoption. Recalling her childhood and the drive that has pushed her to compete internationally countless times, Long stated, “Ever since I can remember I have been determined to do everything that every other kid can do.”

After the Team USA feature, Long went on to be hugely successful in the London Paralympics, and is currently training for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Learn more about her at her official website.

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