Meet The Paralympic Swimmer Everyone’s Going To Be Talking About Soon

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad may have come to a close this week, but if that makes you sad, don't worry: We still have the Paralympic Games to look forward to. More than 4,000 athletes are about to descend on Rio to once again bring inspiration (and drama) to your TV screen (and Twitter feed). Above, we profile one of those amazing athletes, Jessica Long. Born with fibular hemimelia, a rare condition that left her with no bones in her lower legs, 24-year-old Long has catapulted to Paralympic fame, ranking among the most decorated Paralympic swimmers of all time, with 12 gold medals (and 17 medals total) under her cap. A veteran of the Beijing and London games, Long first made her debut at age 12 during 2004’s Athens Paralympics — as the youngest athlete on the U.S. Paralympic Swim Team. Her dedication to excellence is obvious in the tightness of her flip-turns, the streamlined focus of her strokes — and from her many world records. “Every problem, every thought I have, everything is just gone, and it’s just me in the water,” she says about her dedication to the pool. We're guessing that Long's relentlessness is also what helped her beat out a host of world-class competitors for 2012's U.S. Paralympic Sports Woman of the Year title — and what will propel her to further glory in 2016. As she says above, she only has to win one more gold this year to be remembered as the best Paralympic swimmer of all time. Tune in to the swimming events between September 8 and 18 to watch Long crush her fourth (!) Paralympic games.

More from Fitness

R29 Original Series