Q & A: The Valentine’s Day Paralympic Primer

By Joe Clarke | Feb. 12, 2016, 2:40 p.m. (ET)


Oksana Masters (top left), Samantha Tucker (top right), Abby Dunkin (bottom left) and Jon Rydberg (bottom right) share their thoughts on the perfect Valentine's Day.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked two Paralympians and two Paralympic hopefuls to answer some questions about their favorite Valentine’s Day treats and memories as well as what the day means to them. Whether it was who they crushed on growing up, what romance-comedy they enjoy the most or what type of Valentine’s Day candy they must have every year, each athlete provided their own details about what makes the perfect Valentine’s Day.


Jon Rydberg – Wheelchair Tennis – Three-time Paralympian

What do you love about your sport?

“I love my sport because every match can be completely different. Each opponent brings a different element to a match that forces you to constantly adjust. On top of that, each set of courts is also different, which adds another layer of depth to the game of tennis.”

Did you have an Olympic/Paralympic crush growing up?
“I didn't really have an Olympic/Paralympic crush, but I do admire and love the underdog 1980 Olympic hockey team. What a feeling it would have been to be a part of that adventure from beginning to end. To achieve your overall goal after so much hard work and many ups and downs would be amazing.”

Did you have a celebrity crush growing up?
“Who didn't watch Who's The Boss growing up from my era? The number must be small. So Alyssa Milano would be my celebrity crush growing up.”

What is your ideal Valentine’s Day date?
“My ideal Valentine’s Day date would be a good dinner with some relaxation sprinkled in. But, since I'm a competitive athlete, I would throw a little something energetic into the date with bowling, batting cages, or skating as well.”

Who is your valentine this year?
“My Valentine this year is my lovely wife, just as in previous years and every year forward. When you have the best, why change it!”

What is your favorite romance comedy or love/drama movie? Just Friends

What is your favorite sweet/dessert? Ice cream

What is your favorite love song? “Still Want You” by Brandon Flowers

What type of flower would you like to receive on Valentine’s Day? Sunflower


Samantha Tucker – Archery – Paralympic Hopeful

What do you love about your sport?
“To me, adaptive archery reflects the essence of grit and resilience in the face of loss. Many of my teammates and friends were born able-bodied and led robust and even heroic lives. Then, in an instant, all that is gone and we were left with a broken body, but not a broken spirit. In choosing to lean into the loss, leverage it and design a new normal we each honor the core of our being, those we love and the people we want to motivate. Those that were born with a physical limitation are embracing all that they are and not letting physical deficiencies define or limit them. The sport and the spirit that drives those I am blessed to shoot with and against encourages me daily.”

Did you have an Olympic/Paralympic crush growing up?
“Not a crush because he's family but deep admiration. Growing up my cousin Colonel Thomas Brewer was an avid competitor in many sports. He made the All-Military shooting team and was an alternate on the 1996 Olympic team as a small bore competitor.  The following year he won both a National Championship and a World Championship as a sniper. He has coached and fired on 10 National Championship teams and eight NATO Championship teams. He just retired from the Army after 34 years. He's deployed six times and was awarded the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and the Secretary of Defense Medal of Freedom for action and wounds received in Afghanistan. He's one of the best human beings I've ever met, a badass and my hero in so many ways.”

Did you have a celebrity crush growing up?
“I had a tall, dark and handsome dreamy three. Sean Connery has a smile and voice that transcends age and he is the ONLY James Bond in my mind. Then there's Sam Elliott's eyes, crooked smile and husky voice...be still my heart. Then on the quirky side there's John Cusack. I find his eccentric charm quite delicious. Decades later they are still in my top 10.”

What is your ideal Valentine’s Day date?
“I am not a red roses and fancy dinner kind of gal. I thrive on spontaneity, so my Valentine would play off of that and surprise me with a creative experience or new adventure I have been wanting to try or relive.”

Who is your valentine this year?
“My new Hoyt Podium X 37! We just met and I think he's the one. We plan on traveling, competing and making new friends.  To put a feminine archer slant on Melvin Udall's quote from the movie As Good as It Gets, ‘He makes me want to be a better archer.’ Yep, I can be kind of goofy!”

What is your favorite romance comedy or love/drama movie? Say Anything

What is your favorite sweet/dessert? Dark chocolate

What is your favorite love song? “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran

What type of flower would you like to receive on Valentine’s Day? Calla lilies


Oksana Masters – Nordic Skiing, Rowing and Cycling – Two-time Paralympian 

What do you love about your sport?
“The thing I love about cross-country skiing is that there will never be a course or a race that is ever the same from day to day. Being that the nature of the sport is so unpredictable, it is sometimes frustrating but also amazing. I love to push myself physically and mentally as hard and as far as I can. Skiing is the only sport that will bring you in the heart of nature. What I love about cycling is the speeds that I can reach and the road race event where things are constantly changing. You’re acting and reacting to attacks and surges.”

Did you have an Olympic/Paralympic crush growing up?
“My Olympic crush was Giuseppe Lanzone. He is a rower. I was obsessed with watching and re-watching the men’s 8 races which is the boat he rowed. I had the opportunity to meet him at a rowing event and I felt like such a giddy little school girl. He along with the entire U.S. Rowing Olympic Team are so nice.”

Did you have a celebrity crush growing up?
“I had so many celebrity crushes growing up. I was a typical teenage girl and completely boy crazy. My two biggest crushes were Adrian Grenier, best known from Entourage or Ann Hathaway’s boyfriend in the Devil Wears Prada, and Tim McGraw. I mean he wears that cowboy hat so well.”

What is your ideal Valentine’s Day date?
“My ideal Valentine’s Day date would be something that is low key. Staying home and learning how to cook something new where I can wear my comfy clothes and drink a good red wine or my favorite stout depending on what is being cooked. I’m not one for fancy over the top nights just because it’s Valentine’s Day. Although, if it was somewhere warm camping out under the stars, a simple dinner and drinking some red wine with a camp fire would be pretty perfect.”

Who is your valentine this year?
“My Valentine this year is my boyfriend. Although we won’t be able to spend it together this year because he is also an amazing athlete and will be at a training camp, as will I for my sport, he is the best gift, friend, boyfriend and Valentine I could ever imagine. I am the luckiest girl to have him as my Valentine.”

What is your favorite romance comedy or love/drama movie? Meet Joe Black

What is your favorite sweet/dessert? Strawberries

What is your favorite love song? “It’s Your Love” by Tim McGraw

What type of flower would you like to receive on Valentine’s Day? Sunflower


Abby Dunkin – Wheelchair Basketball – Paralympic Hopeful

What do you love about your sport?
“Wheelchair basketball, like many sports, has a strong team foundation. Compared to able-body sports I have played in the past, the team aspect in wheelchair basketball is one that I haven’t experienced until I started the game. The close connections I have made on and off the court with the people that I have been able to meet, play with, and play against are the ones that make me love the game on a deeper level.”

Did you have an Olympic/Paralympic crush growing up?
“Growing up, I always looked up to Abby Wambach and how she carried herself on and off the field. She played for her teammates rather than herself, and had such a strong competitive streak that couldn’t be matched. Not only the way she talked about the game and her teammates, but also how everyone talked about her in such a powerful and positive way, it proved how much of an impact she really had.”

Did you have a celebrity crush growing up?
“I’m pretty sure almost everyone has had a girl crush on Jennifer Lawrence at some point or another. You can never go wrong with Jennifer Lawrence.”

What is your ideal Valentine’s Day date?
“I’m perfectly content with a night-in on my couch watching Netflix and enjoying Whataburger - one reason I love living in Texas.”

Who is your valentine this year?
“My Valentine this year is the Molten GLX6 Basketball. Molten came into my life unexpectedly during this past season, so we haven’t been together for very long. I was a bit skeptical at first of how compatible we would be together on the court, and it was a little rocky at first I’ll be honest. We have recently been able to work through our differences, and now I can’t imagine shooting any other basketball on the court.”

What is your favorite romance comedy or love/drama movie? The Best of Me

What is your favorite sweet/dessert? Ice cream

What is your favorite love song? “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran

What type of flower would you like to receive on Valentine’s Day? I’d rather have food than flowers