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Resilience, Determination, and Grit: Lessons from a Paralympic Athlete

Chelsey Zhu  |  February 22, 2023

Learn to cultivate resilience and overcome setbacks from a 17-time Paralympic medalist.

Our team’s favorite part of creating the HerMoney Podcast is being able to share the stories of amazing women — entrepreneurs, professors, doctors, senators — who started on the bottom rung, beat the odds, and paved the way for other women in their fields. And our guest for this episode is no exception to our exceptional cast. Oksana Masters is a Paralympic athlete who has won 17 medals in not just one, but four different sports, competing against the best of the best in rowing, cross-country skiing, cycling, and the biathlon. In 2020, she was named Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability by the Laureus World Sports Awards. She’s also the author of the new book, “The Hard Parts: A Memoir of Courage and Triumph.” 

Oksana joins us to discuss her journey to becoming one of the world’s leading athletes, the obstacles she’s encountered along the way, and how she was able to work through them. We talk about her early years living in Ukrainian orphanages before she was adopted by her mother and brought to the U.S. at the age of seven. She also shares her first memories of living in America — a place full of “Walmarts and Scooby Doos,” she jokes — and her struggles with adjusting to a new culture while still coming to terms with the trauma of her childhood. 

She needed an outlet — and that’s where sports come in. Oksana tells us why she initially resisted becoming an athlete, but fell in love as soon as she started rowing at the age of 13. Listen in to hear how rowing became a way for her to heal from hardship and gain control over her life as she dealt with her second leg amputation. 

“I used [sports] as a way to just learn me, learn how to love me, learn how to love my body, learn what I can do and the strength that I have,” she says. 

The Paralympian reflects on her experience pushing through all of the unexpected health and financial setbacks she’s encountered over the years, and what she’s learned about resilience and success. She also shares guidance for how anyone can cultivate a little more grit in their own careers. Her most important piece of advice? Understand that hard times don’t last forever. 

“This moment in your life where you’re struggling — it is not going to be your forever,” she says. “It’s going to get easier. It’s going to get better. Every single day, control the things you can control and focus on the things that are going to make a positive impact for your tomorrow.” 

Oksana also explains why hard work is only one part of the equation to success — building positivity and confidence is just as important, she argues. And she wasn’t born with those skills. “Behind closed doors and in the mirror, I was the meanest person to myself. I did not like what I saw in the mirror, and talked and thought very negatively,” she says. Hear her reveal how she was finally able to overcome her self-doubt during the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games and clinch two gold medals — all while nursing an injury. 

In Mailbag, we read a note from an audiologist on the importance of hearing health and answer a question about income limitations for solo 401(k)s. (Shout out to Certified Financial Planner Sarah Sprague Gerber of Momentum Financial Planning for advising us on the latter.) In Thrive, everything you need to know if you’re a first-time homebuyer

You can find out more about Oksana on her website and Instagram. And read more about her journey in her book!

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The HerMoney podcast is supported by      Edelman
All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

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