With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021 thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, sports fans are chomping at the bit to see their favorite athletes compete. With the Games officially around the corner, swimming fans are asking: Will Jessica Long compete in the 2021 Paralympics? While a lot is still uncertain amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Long is clearly ready for whatever comes her way.
The 28-year-old Paralympian is the star of Toyota's 2021 Super Bowl commercial, titled "Upstream." The 60-second spot was filmed mostly in water, and features Long swimming through various pivotal moments in her life, including scenes from the orphanage, her adoption, and her family's home. "It’s everything I swam for, everything I’ve worked really hard for," Long said in a Feb. 3 press release from Toyota, describing "Upstream."
"My biggest hope is that young people see me, a girl without legs in the Paralympics, on TV, and think, ‘I can do that too.’”
Although the entire list of Team USA Paralympic athletes won't be released until early summer, Long, who is seen as a frontrunner for this year's Paralympics, has been a part of the games before. She's competed (and won medals) in 2004, 2008, 2012, and most recently 2016, when she earned one gold medal, three silver medals, and two bronze medals in the Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Summer Games. As of February 2021, Long is training at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado, per USA Today. Long has also previously competed in the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming World Championships, winning four gold medals in 2015. She competes in the 50m Free, 100m Free, 400m Free, 100m Back, 100m Breast, 100m Fly, 200m individual medley events, per her Team USA bio. The 2021 Paralympics are scheduled to be held between Tuesday, Aug. 24 and Sunday, Sept. 5 2021, in Tokyo, Japan — a few weeks after the Olympic Games, which will be held in Tokyo in July and August 2021.
“The water has always given me so much freedom," Long said in a Feb. 3 press release from Toyota. She was born with a rare condition, called fibular hemimelia, which prevents the fibulae, ankles, and foot bones from developing. Just five months after she was adopted from a Siberian orphanage and joined her family in Baltimore, Maryland, Long had to undergo surgery to amputate her lower legs. She was only 18 months old. "Every day, I walk with two heavy prosthetics. I may be a Paralympic athlete, but that doesn’t take away the fact that walking is hard," Long states. "Since I was a little girl, the water has been this place in my life where I just didn’t feel the weight.”
Long discovered her love of swimming when she began using her grandparents' pool, "where she would spend hours pretending she was a mermaid," per her Team USA bio. She joined her first swim team when she was just ten years old, and became the youngest athlete on the U.S. Paralympic Swim Team in Athens in 2004 just two years later.