Oksana Masters traveling the multi-sport path to gold

By Katie Branham | July 22, 2015, 12:59 p.m. (ET)

Oksana Masters, pictured above, shows off one of her Paralympic medals at the 2014 Best of U.S. Awards. 

For a multi-sport athlete who has competed on the water, on the snow and on the road, travel is a part of life. Luckily for Oksana Masters, she’s not only a talented rower, skier, shooter and cyclist, she also has a knack for living on the road.

Masters first made a name for herself as she won a bronze in rowing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. She then transitioned her talents to the snow and won silver and bronze at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Winter Games in cross-country skiing.

But when issues with her back prevented her return to the water, Masters decided to give the sport of cycling a try.

Growing up as a double-amputee, Masters only recalls ever trying an upright bike a few times, and described it as “terrifying.”

“It sounds silly to say, but I’m 26, and I’m just beginning to learn how to ride, so it’s been a really rewarding journey.”

When Masters found a handcycle to borrow at the beginning of last summer, she decided to enter the 2014 U.S. Paralympics Para-cycling Time Trial in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Masters found quick successes and qualified to represent Team USA at the world championships later that summer.

At the world championships, Masters suffered mechanical issues in both of her races and found herself off the podium with matching fourth place finishes in the time trial and road race.

But now with a year of cycling under her belt, Masters is entering the 2015 world championships with a new outlook.

“I have to get my equipment dialed in. Sometimes I have a love/hate relationship with this sport, because it can be so difficult to get everything right. But I’m the type of person that won’t quit, I just want to work harder to get everything right.”

While she was so close to a podium finish in 2014, Masters isn’t putting pressure on herself to come home from Switzerland with a medal.

“I have so much respect for the women that I’m racing in my class. They have so much more experience at this sport than I do, and I’m five years behind them when it comes to learning this sport.

I’m not focusing on the podium, but I would die from excitement if I did. I have personal goals that I’m going to focus on, like taking the turns harder and being smarter with my tactics.”

Masters spent the winter in colder climates training for cross-country skiing and biathlon, but moved to Champaign, Illinois in the spring to begin her cycling-specific training.

“I’ve been told I’m like a gypsy. My home is where my mom is in Lousiville, but I haven’t really lived there since 2011. I have to move to where ever is going to be best for the sport I’m currently focusing on.”

Mastering the art of travel

Not one to pack light, Masters likes to be prepared for anything while traveling for training and competitions. These are the items she doesn’t leave home without:

-          Her own whole coffee beans, coffee grinder and travel mug. - “I hate to admit that I’m a coffee snob, but I can’t live without it,” Masters said.

-          A hot pot and food - “I’m adventurous with different types of local food when I’m traveling, but I have to have my own food as a backup too.”

-          A hair dryer – “I blew up so many hair dryers that I finally decided to buy a European hair dryer.”

-          Exercise bands and a yoga mat – “After a long travel day I’ll do some resistance band work to stay awake and stretch out.”

-          A candle – to give any hotel room a homey feel.

-          Her leg charger – to keep her high-tech prosthetic knees working on the road.

The best thing about traveling as an amputee: 

“Being able to take my legs off and go from being five-eight to four-foot. I get some looks on the plane, but it’s so much better to stretch out and sleep.”

The worst thing about traveling as an amputee: 

“Having to keep my legs charged. Some hotel rooms don’t have enough outlets, so I’m always trying to keep them plugged in.”

Good reads: 

Half of my books are rowing books, but I really like autobiographies. I like to learn the history of sports, and books a great way to learn about them while traveling. Right now I’m reading “Road to Valor” about an Italian cyclist named Gino Bartali racing in the Tour de France during World War II.”

In the carry-on: 

“I bring my own tea, my leg charger, a laptop, a scarf that can double as a blanket too, and my own coffee mug so I can get them to fill two for me.”

Masters will next travel to the 2015 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Nottwil, Switzerland, July 28-Aug. 2. Follow her results at USParalympics.org.