For the third year in a row, Oksana Masters is one of four nominees for ESPN’s Female Athlete With A Disability Award. The Louisvillian — daughter of UofL Assistant Professor M. Gay Masters, PhD, in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Communicative Disorders — is nominated for her prowess in cross-country skiing.
Winners of the annual ESPY Awards are selected through online fan balloting conducted from among candidates selected by the ESPY Select Nominating Committee. The public can vote online now until 5 p.m. EDT, July 13, on the ESPN website.
“I’m thrilled to see Oksana recognized for her talent and incredible hard work as an athlete. The ESPY nomination itself is already a win,” Gay Masters said. “We both appreciate your votes and support.”
Born in the Ukraine in 1989, Oksana Masters was brought to the United States by her adoptive mother when she was 7. She was born with several radiation-induced birth defects, including tibial hemimelia (resulting in different leg lengths), missing weight-bearing shinbones in her calves, webbed fingers with no thumbs, and six toes on each foot.
After moving to the United States in 1997, both of Oksana’s legs were eventually amputated above the knee —her left leg at age eight and her right leg at age 13 — as they became increasingly painful and unable to support her weight. Oksana also had surgery to modify her innermost fingers on each hand so they could function as thumbs.
Oksana first made a name for herself as she won a bronze medal in rowing with partner Rob Jones at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the first-ever United States medal in trunk and arms mixed double sculls with a final time of 4:05.56. She then transitioned her talents to the snow and won silver and bronze at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Winter Games in cross-country skiing.
When issues with her back prevented her return to the water for the 2016 Summer Games, Masters decided to give the sport of cycling a try. She has qualified for the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 7-18, in paracycling, her fourth competitive sport.
ESPY winners will be announced in a telecast at 8 p.m. EDT, July 13, on ABC-TV hosted by WWE wrestler John Cena. For more information, go to the ESPY Awards website.