Oksana Masters celebrates winning gold in the women's H5 road race at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 1, 2021 in Tokyo.
It’s one thing to accomplish something for the first time. It’s quite another to do it at the Paralympic Games.
That’s what Oksana Masters of the U.S. did Wednesday in winning gold in the women’s H5 cycling road race at Fuji International Speedway, just outside Tokyo.
“I can’t believe it,” Masters said. “I’ve never won a road race in my life, and I never thought I would ever win a road race in my life.
“I feel like I’m on cloud nine right now. At the start I was so nervous, I couldn’t even feel my grips. I did not trust myself, but the minute that clock went off and the whistle went off, I just let my body go on autopilot.
“I don’t know what to say. It doesn’t seem real.”
Masters finished the 66-kilometer course in 2 hours, 23 minutes, 39 seconds. China’s Sun Bianbian placed second, 3:11 later to take the. Katia Aere of Italy was third in 2:28:11.
Four-time Paralympic cycling gold medalist Andrea Eskau of Germany, the defending champ, came across the finish line in fourth (2:47:25).
It was the second gold medal of the Games in as many days for Masters, who also won the H4-5 time trial event on Tuesday at the Speedway.
“Everyone was saying to me yesterday I did well,” said Masters, who finished just off the podium in fourth and fifth in her Paralympic cycling debut five years ago in Rio, “and I wanted to prove to myself it wasn’t a one-off, it wasn’t a fluke, it wasn’t an accident.
“I wanted to prove I’m growing as a cyclist and I’m making the changes to the wrongs I did back in Rio. I’m a true cyclist now. I can’t wait to go on from this moment and see where it takes me.”
Masters is hardly a fluke. Having taken up handcycling to help recover from a back injury, she’s also competed at three world championships, winning two silver medals and a bronze.