The 15-year-old paralympic swimmer, Jessica Long, is the first paralympic athlete to win the AAU James E. Sullivan Award. This prestigious award has been presented annually since 1930 and recognizes the best amateur athlete in the United States. Long, who produced 18 world record-breaking performances in 2006, was selected from a field of 15 finalists, including swimming superstar Michael Phelps, Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, speedskater Apolo Ohno and figure skater Sasha Cohen.
Long was born in Siberia and adopted from a Russian orphanage at the age of 13 months by an American couple. Due to deformities, her legs were amputated below the knee when she was 18 months old. Long enjoyed many different sports during her childhood with prostheses, but found swimming to be her strength.
Since hitting the water, Long has set and re-set a multitude of paralympic swimming records. In addition to establishing herself as a role model and mentor for kids with physical disabilities, her recent Sullivan Award win reaches a great milestone for paralympic swimming and paralympic sports.
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