On this episode of The #AskASwimPro Show, we chatted with 23-time Paralympic medalist Jessica Long about how she’s coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, how she’s staying focused on the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics and her advice for swimmers who are struggling to stay motivated during this time. 

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Refocusing for Tokyo 2021

While there were rumors that the 2020 Paralympics would be postponed, Jessica continued to train as normal, which she said was difficult. As pools began to shut down, she and another Paralympic swimmer found a pool 2 hours away where they could train. This training situation wasn’t ideal, and Jessica said she began to feel uneasy.

When the official announcement came that the Tokyo Paralympics were being postponed to 2021, Jessica was relieved at first, but soon the emotions began to roll in. Her training was starting to come together at that point, so she felt frustrated that the pandemic was forcing her to take a break. She said she let herself feel sadness, heartache and all of the emotions that surfaced as a result of this challenging time, but she knows all her hard work training for the 2020 Paralympics won’t go to waste.

Stay Positive, Stay Busy

Jessica said she’s focused on keeping a positive mindset during this time. She regularly reminds herself that everything will be ok in the long run. To keep busy while she’s out of the pool, Jessica is doing a lot of painting. Currently, she’s working on her living room!

In addition to home projects, Jessica is working dryland into her routine. She has a medicine ball, ab roller and resistance bands at home, and has been doing various shoulder and core exercises to stay fit. Some of her favorite exercises include alternating leg lifts, ITYs, Russian twists and freestyle catch with a resistance band. She has to be creative to get her heart rate up outside of the pool, since she’s unable to run. 

Some of her favorite exercises are in the MySwimPro app!

 

 

Making Tokyo 2021 Even Sweeter

Jessica explained how amazing it is going to feel when all the athletes arrive in Tokyo for the 2021 Paralympics. Overcoming such a monumental, global pandemic will bring people together like never before, she said.

Staying Connected

Jessica is close to numerous elite swimmers from around the world, including U.S. Paralympian Lizzi Smith. She stays in touch with Team USA via a group chat, which is a major source of positivity and support in this time of social distancing. 

Related: Lizzi Smith, Team USA Paralympic Medalist

Advice for Other Swimmers

Jessica’s advice for swimmers who are feeling sad and overwhelmed during this time? Control the controllables. So much of this pandemic is out of our control, but we can do our best to practice good social distancing and stay positive.

She also recommended keeping a regular dryland routine that includes core work, shoulder mobility and strength, and yoga that will help swimmers maintain fitness and work on weak points.

Life After Competition

After hanging up her racing suit, Jessica would like to stay involved in the sports world through commentating. She has some experience in this arena — she commented for NBC during the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Jessica sees herself as a role model and loves to share her story any way she can. She published a book 2 years ago titled Unsinkable. She has other book ideas that may come to fruition in the future. She also mentioned that she loves public speaking, and would be interested in connecting with the next generation in that way.

Fun Facts

  • Jessica has 13 gold medals!
  • She was adopted from Russia as a baby. She is one of 6 children.
  • She was born with fibular hemimelia. Her legs were amputated below the knee when she was 18 months old.
  • She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • She is a Leap Year baby! She has a birthday every 4 years on February 29th.

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