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- Ukrainian-born American Paralympic rower and cross-country skier
- American Track and Field athlete
With the Tokyo Olympic Games just weeks away, the athletes of Team USA are preparing to head halfway around the world to compete with the best of the best. Although no spectators will be allowed to attend the Summer Games after the Japanese government declared a new state of emergency in Tokyo because of COVID-19, fans can still have a front row seat thanks to Olympians and Paralympians chronicling their journeys on TikTok.
Whether you're looking for athletes competing in brand-new events, teenage prodigies or sprinters with missing limbs, these are 10 Team USA TikTok accounts that you need to be following before the opening ceremony begins July 23.
Oksana Masters (@oksanamasters)
Oksana Masters is the definition of an all-around athlete. She has competed in four different sports across six different Paralympic Games — three summer and two winter — and has eight medals to her name. She has one medal in rowing, five in cross-country skiing and two in biathlon, but she will compete in road cycling at the Tokyo Paralympics.
Masters was born in Ukraine and had severe physical birth defects because of exposure to radiation from the infamous Chernobyl nuclear reactor incident. She had both legs amputated above the knee before the age of 13, but that has never stopped her from chasing her athletic goals. On TikTok, she showcases her training and daily life as a double amputee for more than 49,500 followers.
Sunisa Lee (@sunisalee)
At 18 years old, Sunisa Lee is one of the best gymnasts in the world. She became the only person since 2013 to score above Simone Biles in an all-around competition when she topped the five-time gold medalists' day two score at the Olympic trials. She also posted the highest scores of the competition on both the uneven bars and balance beam.
Lee will be the youngest member of the U.S. gymnastics team in Tokyo, so it isn't surprising that she posts regularly on TikTok. She gives more than 14,900 followers insight into her life as an average teenager, though it's common to see her elite gymnast friends make appearances in her lip syncing and transition videos.
Hunter Woodhall (@hunterwoodhall)
Hunter Woodhall broke barriers for disabled athletes when he became the first double amputee to earn a Division I track and field scholarship. However, before he ever committed to the University of Arkansas, Woodhall won his first Paralympic medals — a silver in the 400 meters and a bronze in the 200 — in Rio de Janeiro when he was 17 years old. He will compete in the 400 and 100 meters at this year's Paralympics.
Woodhall's TikTok account, which has more than 2.9 million followers, often features his girlfriend Tara Davis, who will compete in the long jump at the Tokyo Olympics. He also posts regularly about his training, races and experiences as a double amputee.
Ilona Maher (@ilonamaher)
Ilona Maher did not begin playing rugby until her senior year of high school, but the 24-year-old has quickly become one of the best in the nation. During her collegiate career at Quinnipiac University, Maher was a three-time All-American and won the MA Sorensen Award for National Player of the Year as a junior. She also helped Quinnipiac to three consecutive national championships. She will compete on the women's rugby sevens team at the Olympics.
Maher has more than 70,500 followers on TikTok, and her content is mostly lighthearted. She frequently jokes about everything from her rugby teammates to her love of Olivia Rodrigo's music.
Anastasia Pagonis (@anastasia_k_p)
Anastasia Pagonis first began losing her vision when she was 12 due to genetic retina disease and autoimmune retinopathy, but the 17-year-old is now a social media influencer and soon-to-be Paralympic swimmer. In January, Pagonis set four American records in the S11 classification and she broke the world record in the 400-meter freestyle at the Paralympic trials in June.
On TikTok, Pagonis' content is dedicated to educating her more than 1.8 million followers about visual impairment. She has posted videos discussing how she manages everyday tasks like doing her makeup, learning TikTok dances and showering. There are also occasional cameos by her guide dog, Radar.
Kyra Condie (@climbingroommates)
Kyra Condie is one of two female climbers from the U.S. who will compete in the first-ever Olympic sport climbing event at the Tokyo Games. She competes in all three climbing disciplines — bouldering, speed, and lead — but has had her strongest performances in lead climbing. She finished fourth at the 2019 USA Lead Open National Championships and won the 2019 USA Combined Invitational Nationals.
Condie's TikTok account is a two-for-one deal, as she shares it with her roommate and fellow professional climber Allison Vest. Vest is Canadian and will not be competing in Tokyo. The pair post videos of themselves training, doing TikTok challenges and goofing around in their apartment for more than 21,000 followers.
Tyler Downs (@tylerdownss)
Add Tyler Downs to the list of teenagers who will be competing on the biggest stage in sports this summer. The 17-year-old diver pulled off a stunning victory in the 3-meter springboard event at the Olympic Trials, beating 2012 gold medalist David Boudia. Downs has only competed in one prior senior-level international competition, but he has won six junior national championships and has a gold medal from the 2019 Junior Pan American Games.
On TikTok, Downs has more than 520,500 followers. He often posts videos of himself diving in practices and competitions, but he also makes TikToks doing dances or using trending sounds with his friends. He jokes about school and homework, a reminder that the Olympian is just a regular kid at heart.
Jessica Long (@jessicatatianalong)
Swimmer Jessica Long is the second-most decorated U.S. Paralympian of all time. At 30 years old, Long has 23 Paralympic medals, 13 of which are gold. She qualified for her first Paralympics, the 2004 Athens Games, when she was only 12 and has competed in every Paralympics since. She was born with fibular hemimelia, which means she was missing most of the bones in her lower legs, and had a double amputation below the knee when she was 18 months old.
Long posts on TikTok regularly about her swimming training and preparation for the Tokyo Games. She also gives more than 967,500 followers insight into her life with prosthetic legs, showcasing things like the various prosthetics she uses for different occasions and her hand-controlled car.
Ezra Frech (@ezrafrech)
Despite being one of the youngest members of Team USA at just 16, Ezra Frech plans to participate in three events at the Tokyo Paralympics: the 100 meters, high jump and long jump. Frech has competed on the international stage before, qualifying for the finals in all three of his events at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships, and he also won one gold and two bronze medals at the 2019 World Para Athletics Junior Championships.
Frech was born missing his left leg from just above the knee and has been a lifelong advocate for athletes with disabilities. He uses his platform on TikTok to showcase his accomplishments and educate more than 197,400 followers about the challenges of living without a limb. Frech and his family also created Angel City Games, a multi-sport competition for physically disabled children and adults that has been held annually since 2015 in Los Angeles.
Heimana Reynolds (@heimana_reynolds)
Heimana Reynolds will represent Team USA in the inaugural Olympic skateboarding competition in Tokyo. The Hawaiian skateboarder won a gold medal at the 2019 World Championships and has three top-10 finishes at the X Games. Reynolds will compete in the park discipline at the Games, and is currently ranked No. 1 in the United States.
On TikTok, it's all skateboarding, all the time for the 22-year-old. More than 142,800 followers get a close-up view of Reynolds' best skating tricks and photos in his videos, often set to popular songs on the app.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2021 Olympics: Olympians and Paralympians to follow on TikTok