Who is Jessica Long? Tragic tale of how Paralympic swimmer in Super Bowl LV Toyota commercial lost her legs
'I’m so excited for everyone to see it, and kind of get the full story. Not just the gold medalist Jessica Long, but where it started, in that Russian orphanage,' Jessica Long reportedly said
Jessica Long, 28, who recently appeared in the one-minute Toyota commercial at Super Bowl LV, is one of the most decorated US Paralympian in history. While the commercial may have had many wondering as to who Long was and what her story is, her story has been chronicled on Peacocks' 'Long Way Home: The Jessica Long Story' which premiered on primetime in 2014 during the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.
As per Toyota's description of the commercial, it "features Long swimming through milestone scenes over the course of her life, starting with a depiction of the Russian orphanage from which she was adopted. The camera then cuts to her parents (played by actors) receiving the emotional call that they would be adopting a baby girl, but with the news that her legs would need to be amputated due to a rare condition." It added, "The scenes following show a young swimmer depicting Jessica, hands-on-hips ready to compete, knowing she’s different from other children, yet remaining resilient. The spot continues with Jessica competing in her quest to greatness, overcoming all obstacles as she becomes a Paralympic legend."
While that may have tugged a few heartstrings, Long's real-life story will bring you nothing but joy. From the way she thinks about her past as an orphan to working towards a bright future as a champion swimmer, Long's story is one that will hold water to many watching her as inspiration.
Who is Jessica Long?
Long was born on February 29, 1992, in Siberia with a medical condition called fibular hemimelia. In layman's terms, it means that she was born with no fibulas, ankles, heels, and most of many other bones in her feet. Reports indicate that the now Paralympian was adopted when she was 13 months old from an orphanage in Russia by Americans and was raised in Baltimore. Her legs, however, due to the condition, were amputated below the knee when Long was just 18 months old. While that sounds painful, Long has a determination that many would admire, considering she's been through more challenging surgeries after that.
In 2013, Long even got to meet her birth parents, who were only teenagers when their daughter was born. She was originally named Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova. Reports reveal that Long along with an NBC Olympics production team went to the Russian adoption center via a 3-day trip. They also visited what would have been her Siberian hometown via an 18-hour train journey, as she born there. In 'Long Way Home: The Jessica Long Story', Long says, “When I first see my Russian family, I want them to know that I’m not angry with them, that I’m not upset that they gave me up for adoption. I think that was really brave, and I don’t know what I would have done if I was in her situation, at 16 and having this disabled baby that they knew that they couldn’t take care of. I want to tell her that when I see her that, if anything, I have so much love for her, my mom, because she gave me life.”
She's one tough swimmer
As a child, Long would pretend she was a mermaid and swim in the pool at her grandparents' on Sundays after church. But that imagination proved to be extremely beneficial, as Long went on to swimming competitively at the age of 10. Within two years, she earned three gold medals when she made her Paralympic debut in Athens, Greece, in 2004. In an interview to Weekend Today in 2019, Long said, "I knew I didn't look like the other kids, but I never wanted the fact that I didn't have legs to hold me back. I always loved the water. It's a place I can just take off these heavy prosthetics and just jump in the water and feel no different. I can move in a way I can't always on land."
The talented swimmer went on to compete in three following Paralympics bringing her medal count up to a whopping 23, 13 of which are golds. That's a lot for that short amount of time. Reports also indicate that Long, "for a time" was part of the training group that saw legend Michael Phelps under Bob Bowman, the coach. As of now, big things are still in the works for Long who is said to take part in swimming at the fifth Paralympic Games in Tokyo in the summer.
Speaking about the recent Toyota commercial, Long told USA Today, "I’m so excited for everyone to see it, and kind of get the full story. Not just the gold medalist Jessica Long, but where it started, in that Russian orphanage." You can watch the Toyota commercial featuring Long below: