It turns out that Jessica Long spent most of her third Paralympic Games experience in September 2012 being chased all over London by television crews, media, paparazzi and a whole village of Russian athletes who were trying to reconnect her birth mother with her during the competition.
“It was something that I always wanted to find out about. I wanted to go and find my birth mom. It never occurred to me that I’d have brothers and sisters but I always thought of my birth mom.”
It all started with an interview she had done with a local media crew, who knew that she had Siberian parents.
“Six months earlier I did a piece with Russia 1 and I mentioned I wanted to meet my birth mom. They took it upon themselves to find them.”
Right before she left for London, she had gotten some Tweets regarding her birth parents being located in Siberia by a media group. Some athletes who knew each other from previous meets tried to reach to Long via her friends. Clearly, the Paralympic Games is a tight community of athletes with similar tales and family situations given their disabilities.
“I was so busy competing that I didn’t really have time to think about it. They were trying to turn my story into a nice story for people and I wasn’t hiding but I was just thinking, ‘No. I’m concentrating on competing and this isn’t the right time or the right way to do this.”
“I didn’t have time for it. And, really for a while, I thought it was a joke. Everywhere I went in the athlete village people were handing me notes about getting me to my parents. Some of the people didn’t even seem legitimate. They wanted me to go on a TV show when competition was over, fly straight to Moscow and have a pre-arranged meeting. And I didn’t know if this was more like Maury Povich or Oprah but it didn’t seem real to me.”
Long was swimming in nine events. She would win five gold medals and two silvers. She was under a lot of stress daily trying to win.
Meanwhile the parents who adopted her and brought her all this way were trying to be protective as you can well imagine.
“I do feel like in a way I wasn’t able to celebrate London the way I wanted to but I’m proud of what I did and it was one more test to keep me focused,” Long now says.
She still hasn’t met the folks from Siberia who claim to be her birth parents.
It is strange that Jessica Long has seen many videos and read internet news posts regarding her parents and their story and struggle to care for her two decades ago in Siberia.
If you read the two links from above you have seen about as much of Jessica Long’s birth parents as she has at this point.
“If these people are really my parents I want to see them. I don’t want to go on a TV show. I have other siblings that I’d want to meet in a normal, private way.”
“Right now, I’ve only seen them on TV. So let me tell you it’s been a little crazy. The first few weeks after London, I didn’t want to talk about it. I wanted to think through it. I’m not upset now. I’ve wondered for 20 years. It’s really exciting but the timing was really hard.”
Long says her Russian friends have translated some of the videos and stories for her.
“We’ve also had nice reporters write and say nice stuff about what a great story it is,” she said. “I love my American family to death. They mean everything to me. It’s all part of God’s plan.”
For now, Long is out of the pool and away from training and plotting her run at more gold in Rio in 2016. She also spends a lot of time in Colorado Springs with other athletes.
Before we got off the phone back in October, Jessica Long asked me if I knew any way she could ever meet Ray Lewis because he has been an inspiration to her.
I talked with Ray back in October right before his injury. We had a date in November get pushed because of his rehab but alas it became a holiday treat.
On Friday, Dec. 21st, Jessica Long and her brother and sister met me in Owings Mills and the Baltimore Ravens honored her by allowing her to break the huddle before the New York Giants game at their final practice.
It’s the only game they won in December 2012.
Perhaps John Harbaugh wants her back this Friday before the Colts game.
Hope you enjoy this video from The Castle. It was one of my favorite memories of 2012: