The medal count keeps building for one of the all-time greatest Paralympic swimmers.
Baltimore native Jessica Long won a silver medal in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke at the Tokyo Paralympics on Wednesday, the 27th Paralympic medal of her career.
Long, 29, touched second with a time of 1 minute, 34.82 seconds to edge Australia’s Tiffany Thomas Kane (1:35.02) by two-tenths of a second. Russia’s Maria Pavlova won gold with a time of 1:31.44.
It’s been a rewarding Paralympics so far for Long, the second-most decorated U.S. Paralympian of all-time. Only retired swimmer Trischa Zorn has more medals with 55, the most in Paralympics history.
However, Long said she discovered she has an extra vertebra in her back, which has been causing pain.
“It’s been a really challenging five years with breaststroke,” Long, a bi-lateral amputee who was adopted from a Siberian orphanage by a Baltimore couple, said after the race. “In 2018 I really hurt my back, my lower back, and it’s been a couple of years where we finally found out that I have an extra vertebra in my back.
“So it’s been hard to train it, I can only train it just a little bit before I’m in some pain. So I’m honestly just really surprised and shocked at the results. The time wasn’t really there, it’s definitely not my best time in breaststroke, and the goal was to get the medal or to get on the podium.”
Long, who said she received a good luck message from friend, fellow Baltimore native and Olympic legend Michael Phelps before the Paralympics, took a moment to reflect on her rise from her first Games as a 12-year-old in Athens in 2004.
“There was a time in 2008 where no one really wanted to talk to the Paralympic athletes. I remember doing some media and [was] just kind of being pushed to the side. And when I had the opportunity to train with Michael Phelps and [his coach] Bob Bowman in DC, that’s when I realized that I am just as good as the Olympic athletes and I don’t ever have to question it.
“Just even having the respect of the Olympic athletes before I came out here, Michael wrote me good luck and that he was rooting for me and cheering for me and that was a really big moment, especially being a Paralympic athlete, just to have the respect of the greatest Olympian.”
Long, who won her fourth consecutive Paralympic gold medal in the 200-meter individual medley on Saturday, will also compete in the 100-meter butterfly and 400-meter freestyle.