Oksana Masters poses for a portrait during the Team USA Beijing 2022 Olympic shoot on Sep. 12, 2021 in Irvine, California.
When the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 came to an end, many of the athletes who competed in them exhaled a sigh of relief and found a comfortable spot on the couch to rest and recover. But not Oksana Masters.
The dual-Games athlete — who earned two gold medals in road cycling in Tokyo (time trial and road race) — was already training for the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 before it was time to flip the calendar to October. Her hectic schedule had her in four countries on three continents in one month.
If she qualifies for Beijing, it will be her sixth Paralympic Games and would close out a three Games run for her in Asia (PyeongChang 2018, Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022).
Under normal circumstances, she would have two years between a summer and winter Games, but with Tokyo getting delayed a year, the turnaround time is only six months.
“When the announcement was made about the Tokyo postponement, there was a relief of it being postponed and not canceled. But then I started panicking because I knew it was going to be a tight turnaround,” Masters said over the phone while on a layover.
“This situation is not normal,” the cross-country skier added. “There are other people in the same position, so it’s nice to have teammates who I can go to and be like, okay guys, do you feel like this, too, or am I the only one freaking out?”
Her boyfriend, a fellow five-time Paralympian, Aaron Pike, is one of those people. He finished the marathon in Tokyo in sixth and currently trains in cross-country and biathlon.
But even with her two most recent medals, she is unable to calm her nerves.
“Instead of celebrating, I’m just focused on the next task, which is the Winter Games,” she said. “I think I’m putting more pressure on myself because people see the results from Tokyo — which they don’t understand was a different sport.”
She has found a silver lining, though.
“Going through the process of a Paralympic Games during a pandemic and all the protocols, it’s nice because I know what to expect now. And it will be nice to share that with the coaches and my team so that they can prepare and they’re not shocked like I was,” Masters said.