You may not immediately recognize the name Jessica Long but if you watched the commercials during the Tokyo Olympics or Super Bowl LV then chances are you know who she is. Long is one of the most decorated Paralympians of all time and has been touted as “The Michael Phelps of Paralympic swimming.” She shared some of her incredible story in an ad for Toyota and since then many have wanted to know much more about her including who her husband Lucas Winters is.
Here’s more on Winters as well as Long’s backstory.
Jessica Long’s amazing story
On Feb. 29, 1992, Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova (later changed to Jessica Long) was born in Bratsk, Russia with fibular hemimelia. Because of the rare disorder, she didn’t have bones in her lower legs and feet.
She was adopted by an American couple, Beth and Steve Long, when she was 13 months old. She grew up in Baltimore and when she was 18 months, her legs were amputated below the knees. Long learned to walk with prosthetics and was involved in a number of sports including gymnastics, cheerleading, ice skating, biking, and rock climbing. Her grandparents had a pool which is where she learned how to swim and by 2002, she joined her first competitive swim team.
Her first Paralympic Games were in Athens, Greece, in 2004. At the age of just 12, she won three gold medals. In the years since she has racked up more and more hardware to add to her collection.
How Long and Winters met and when they tied the knot
Long and Winters first met at a “Flannel Friendsgiving” which was hosted by some of their church friends in 2015. They began dating and three years later got engaged.
During their engagement Winters shared a sweet post via Instagram about his bride-to-be that read: “Through the whole engagement, you have been a rockstar. You are so patient and kind to me during this wedding planning process. I love you so much and can’t wait to see you walk down the aisle. You’re going to be a stunning Mrs. Winters.”
The couple said “I do” at a farm in Maryland on Oct. 11, 2019. After they wed, Long and Winters didn’t get to spend too much time together since she was so busy with her swimming schedule and he was commuting from their Maryland home to D.C. four days a week for his job with a soccer foundation. But that was about to change.
The Paralympian talks quarantine with her hubby and being away from the pool
A few months into their marriage, the global pandemic hit and everything shut down. For the first time in her life, Long was away from a pool and the newlyweds quarantined together in their condo.
“Lucas would be like, ‘Okay, Jess you go take an hour and do something for yourself and I’m going to go into our [makeshift] office and play guitar.’ And then we would meet up after,” she recalled to TeamUSA.org when discussing how they passed the time quarantining at home. “We’d play a card game or go on a date by putting blankets in the back of my Toyota, order take out, go to a park and open up the back and watch the sunset. We enjoyed each other’s company, which I think is important but we also recognized that sometimes alone time is healthy, too.”
Long eventually found a pool that was open. It was a couple of hours from their condo but she explained to Winters that she wanted to be back in the water. “I told Lucas, I have to go,” she remembered. “He was super supportive. He has been great. He’s so patient and kind.”
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