Oksana Masters celebrates at the medal ceremony for the women's sitting cross-country sprint on March 14, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Oksana Masters almost didn’t have the greatest year.
But it turns out not even a fractured elbow three weeks before the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 could stop the powerhouse multisport athlete from not only competing at her fourth Paralympics but also winning five medals, including her first golds, to have one of her best years yet.
When it comes to Masters’ capabilities, “no” isn’t a word she’s often willing to accept. So when doctors tried to tell the then-28-year-old that racing in the Paralympics might not happen this year, she knew that somehow it would.
Masters not only raced, she won a silver medal in the women’s 6-kilometer sitting biathlon, and the next day took bronze in the 12K sitting cross-country race.
Then even when the challenges kept coming, Masters kept finding ways to persevere.
She fell in the 10K biathlon and reinjured her elbow, forcing her to drop out of the race and be carried off the course. The pain was excruciating, more than she let on, yet the very next day Masters captured her first Paralympic gold medal, six medals into her career.
After winning the 1.5K cross-country sprint she went on to pick up another gold, this time in the 5K cross-country race, and one more silver medal in the 12.5K biathlon.
Masters, who’d won three medals in her first three Paralympics combined — when she competed as a rower (2012), Nordic skier (2014) and cyclist (2016) — left as the most decorated female U.S. athlete in PyeongChang. And she closed out the Games by carrying the U.S. flag in the Closing Ceremony.
Then the honors came rolling in.
First she won the Team USA Award for Female Paralympic Athlete of the Games, and was so overwhelmed she said she wished she could give a little piece of the award to all the nominees, a la Cady Heron in “Mean Girls.”
Then she was nominated for the Women’s Sports Foundation’s individual sportswoman of the year award.
Then she won.
She was just the second Paralympian ever to win the honor, after being nominated in a field that included Mikaela Shiffrin and Chloe Kim.
Her reach and influence only continue to grow, as Masters was also nominated for an ESPY and a Laureus World Sports award, and she recently spoke at the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society in Paris.
Meanwhile, her recovery from offseason surgery complete, Masters is exiting 2018 in style as well after returning to competition for the first time since PyeongChang earlier this month and winning world cup gold in the women’s sitting cross-country sprint.