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Chernobyl Victim Wins Paralympic Skiing Gold In Pyeongchang

Oksana Masters of the United States celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the gold in the women's 1.1-kilometer cross-country sprint skiing in Pyeongchang on March 14.

A Ukraine-born U.S. skier who suffered radiation-induced birth defects following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster says she is "on cloud nine" after winning Winter Paralympic gold in South Korea.

"I've been chasing this gold medal for such a long time," 28-year-old Oksana Masters said on March 14, after winning her first Paralympic gold in the 1.1-kilometer cross-country sprint skiing in Pyeongchang.

Masters was born in then-Soviet Ukraine in 1989, three years after a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl plant north of the capital, Kyiv, spewing radiation over much of Europe.

At birth, she had six toes on each foot, five webbed fingers on each hand, and no thumbs, while her left leg was 15 centimeters shorter than her right.

Abandoned by her parents, she lived in orphanages until the age of 7, when she was adopted and taken to the United States. She is from Louisville, Kentucky.

Due to the severity of her birth defects, doctors amputated both her legs and conducted reconstructive surgery on her hands.

Masters also won a silver in biathlon and a bronze in long-distance cross-country skiing at the Pyeongchang Paralympics.

She also won silver and bronze medals at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi and a bronze in rowing at the London 2012 Summer Paralympics.

"I am so happy I have been able to channel all the things that I went through when I was younger and make them into something positive," Masters said.

With reporting by AFP