LONDON—The U.S. trunk and arms mixed double sculls crew of Rob Jones of Lovettsville and Oksana Masters of Buffalo, N.Y. won the bronze medal on Sept. 2 at the 2012 Paralympic Games in Eton Dorney, outside London.
China won the gold medal in 3:57.63, with France taking silver in 4:03.06. The U.S. crew was in sixth place at the start, but worked its way through the field, crossing the line in 4:05.56 to edge out Great Britain by 0.21 seconds.
This is the first U.S. Paralympic medal in this event. Rowing became part of the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008.
Jones, 26, graduated in 2003 from Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville and from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
Jones was a U.S. Marine Corps sergeant who was badly wounded when he stepped on an improvised explosive device while on combat duty in Helmand, Afghanistan, in July 2010. Days later, doctors at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda amputated both his legs above the knee.
Jones’ recalls that his first response following the amputation was not self-pity or doubt. His mind rested on the one thing he had found most difficult before his injury: Rowing. He would become a competitive rower.
“I’m the type of person who likes to challenge myself and I like to do the hardest thing possible,” Jones said. “Facing challenges and overcoming challenges is what makes you grow as a person.”
In an interview after the race on Sept. 2, Jones said: “I feel really tired. My whole body hurts. We were behind – I couldn’t really tell where we were. At the end, we just started to sprint and pulled ahead. We were able to catch [Great Britain], but we didn’t quite catch France and China. I thought we were pretty close.
“We were second to last going into 600 meters. I knew that was the time to empty the bank account of all the work we’ve been doing the last eight months. So we just emptied it out. Luckily, it was enough.”
Jones continued: “It wasn’t the result we really wanted—we wanted first-place, but we’re certainly proud of making the top three, especially since we’re the smallest crew here and the least experienced crew here. It’s just really gratifying to be able to do this well. It’s only our second international race. First one with a full field, so it’s been great.”
On his taking up the sport of rowing, Jones said: “It’s been awesome. The reason I got into this sport, and the reason I get into any sport is to challenge myself to do the best I can against other people who have that same will power, that same drive and are just as equally skilled as I am. It’s great to be able to compete against people with those same motivations and the same attitude.”
“I think today was the first time I heard the crowd. I was always expecting the crowd to give me an extra boost and the environment is great, having all the competitors around really pushes you to do better. Having such support from fans is great.”
“My motivation today was first, to win one for the United States. That’s the most important thing to me. Second was to make good on everybody who helped us out since my injury. I wanted to make them proud, and do good by them. Third, it’s been Oksana’s dream for a really long time and I’m happy to help her out with that. Fourth, this is something I really wanted to do.”
Jones’ team mate, Masters, 23, was adopted from an orphanage in Khmelnitskyy, Ukraine, and came at 7 years old came to the United States. Her home village was close to a nuclear power plant and she is a bilateral above-knee amputee as the result of inutero radiation poisoning.
Masters and Jones trained together for the 2012 Paralympic Games in Orlando, Fla.
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