Oksana Masters on Beijing medal haul: ‘I definitely surprised myself’

Masters competes in Middle Distance Sitting at the Beijing Games, where she won seven total medals. (Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Oksana Masters has won 17 medals across the Summer and Winter Games, making her the most decorated U.S. Paralympian of all time.

This past year, Masters achieved something extraordinary even by her standards when she medaled in the Tokyo Summer Olympics six months before topping the podium at the Beijing Winter Games.

“I definitely surprised myself to actually not only set this goal, but to actually achieve it and surpass what you thought was even possible,” Masters tells Kelley O’Hara on the latest episode of The Players’ Pod.

Competing in para cross-country skiing and para biathlon, Masters took home seven medals from the 2022 Winter Games, surpassing the all-time American record.

“Beijing 2022 Winter Games was a full circle of my whole Paralympic experience, because in 2008, Beijing is where I learned about the Paralympics. I wanted to make that team, and I didn’t make that team, so I kind of wanted it to be a huge statement,” Masters says.

Her historic achievement in Beijing was made more impressive by the fact that she earned two gold medals in para-cycling in Tokyo just six months before the Beijing competition.

“This was a historic time for the Games to have winter and summer in one year,” Masters says of the amended gap after COVID-19 forced the International Olympic Committee to postpone the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics by a year. “Six months was a cool experience and all, but I think I would rather stick to two (years).”

While Tokyo and Beijing were memorable in their own right, Masters’ favorite Paralympics were actually the 2012 London Games.

“I don’t judge my experience based on the medals. It’s overall the whole entire experience,” she says. “London is hands down my favorite experience. London just as a Paralympic Games, they hit it out of the park. The stands were just full for rowing. It was packed stands and spectators, and it just felt like a Games.”

After competing in five different Paralympics, Masters has no intention of retiring anytime soon. The 32-year-old has her sights set on Los Angeles 2028 as her final Games.

Listen to the full episode of The Players Pod for more on Masters’ historic Paralympic feat.