Oksana Masters’ Historic Nomination Highlights Team USA Nods For ESPYS
by Chrös McDougall
Oksana Masters competes during the women's sprint sitting semifinals at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 9, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
Oksana Masters makes history just about everywhere she goes, and now that includes the ESPYS.
Coming off gold-medal performances at both the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 and the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, Masters becomes the first Para athlete to earn a nomination for the Best Athlete, Women’s Sports award. The 17-time Paralympic medalist as a rower, cyclist and Nordic skier joins three U.S. Olympians in the category.
They are defending Olympic gymnastics all-around champion Suni Lee, 19-time world champion swimmer Katie Ledecky and Candace Parker, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in basketball who led the Chicago Sky to the 2021 WNBA title. Parker also won the award in 2008.
Masters’ groundbreaking journey from an orphanage in Ukraine to becoming a record-setting athlete for Team USA has made her one of the world’s preeminent Para athletes. And she keeps getting better.
After winning the cycling road race and time trial in Tokyo, she made the podium in all seven of her events as a Nordic skier in Beijing, in the process setting a record for the most medals by an American in a single Winter Paralympics while also giving her a U.S. record 14 Winter Paralympic medals.
Several other U.S. Olympians and Paralympians are nominated for awards, which will be announced at the July 20 ceremony in Los Angeles.
Ledecky, Lee and Masters are also up for the Best Olympian, Women’s Sports category. They’re joined by track star Allyson Felix, who won a gold and bronze medal in Tokyo. Those medals brought her career total to 11, surpassing Carl Lewis for the most by a U.S. track athlete. For that, Felix is also up for Best Record-Breaking Performance. The 36-year-old is planning to retire following the world championships next month in Oregon.
The Best Olympian, Men’s Sport nominees are figure skating gold medalist Nathan Chen, sled hockey star Declan Farmer, four-time Paralympic sprinting medalist Nick Mayhugh and seven-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Caeleb Dressel.
Masters is also nominated for the Best Athlete With a Disability, Women category, along with fellow Paralympians Jessica Long (swimming) and Brenna Huckaby (snowboarding). Soccer player Kate Ward rounds out the category. The Men’s Disability nominees include Farmer and Mayhugh, plus Paralympic swimming-turned-triathlon gold medalist Brad Snyder and table tennis player Ian Seidenfeld.
Soccer player Megan Rapinoe’s “Olimpico” goal scored untouched off a corner kick in the Tokyo Olympic bronze-medal game is up for Best Play.
In the Best Comeback Athlete category, 2016 Olympic basketball champ Klay Thompson earned a nod after battling back from two major injuries to help the Golden State Warriors win this year’s NBA title. Thompson missed the entire 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, then played only 32 games this season before leading the Warriors to a fourth championship in eight years.
Sylvia Fowles, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Parker are up for Best WNBA Player. Fowles, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, plans to retire following this season.
Other Olympic and Paralympic nominees include Mikaela Mayer and Shakur Stevenson (Best Boxer), Kayla Harrison (Best MMA Fighter), Alex Hall (Best Athlete, Men’s Action Sports) and Chloe Kim (Best Athlete, Women’s Action Sports).
Justin Thomas and 2020 Olympic gold medalist Nelly Korda are up for the respective Best Athlete awards for men’s and women’s golf.
Trinity Rodman, a 20-year-old who earned her first call up to the U.S. women’s soccer team this past spring, is up for Best Breakthrough Athlete.