In this jaw-dropping story of triumph over adversity, Oksana Masters, the United States’s most decorated winter Paralympic or Olympic athlete, tells her story of overcoming extraordinary Chernobyl disaster–caused physical challenges to create a life that, by example, challenges everyone to push through what is holding them back.
Oksana Masters was born in Ukraine—in the shadow of Chernobyl—seemingly with the world against her. She was born with one kidney, a partial stomach, six toes on each foot, webbed fingers, no right bicep, and no thumbs. Her left leg was six inches shorter than her right, and she was missing both tibias.
Relinquished to the orphanage system by birth parents daunted by the staggering cost of what would be their child’s medical care, Oksana encountered numerous abuses, some horrifying. Salvation came at age seven when Gay Masters, an unmarried American professor who saw a photo of the little girl and became haunted by her eyes, waged a two-year war against stubborn adoption authorities to rescue Oksana from her circumstances.
In America, Oksana endured years of operations that included a double leg amputation. Still, how could she hope to fit in when there were so many things making her different?
As it turned out, she would do much more than fit in. Determined to prove herself and fueled by a drive to succeed that still smoldered from childhood, Oksana triumphed in not just one sport but four—winning against the world’s best in elite rowing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, and road cycling competitions. Now considered one of the world’s top athletes, she is the recipient of seventeen Paralympic medals, the most of any US athlete of the Winter Games, Paralympic or Olympic.
This is Oksana’s astonishing story of journeying through a series of dark tunnels—and how, with her mother’s love, she finally found her way into the light. Her message to anyone who doesn’t fit in: you can find a place where you excel—where you have worth.
Oksana Masters was born in Ukraine in 1989 and faced numerous physical challenges due to in utero radiation poisoning from Chernobyl. After living in three orphanages, she was adopted by an American mother at the age of seven. She is America’s most decorated Winter Paralympian—a winner of seventeen medals in four sports. In 2020, she won the Laureus World Sports Award in the category of “Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.” Her story has appeared in numerous media outlets—from Sports Illustrated to The New York Times to the Players’ Tribune—and she has participated in high fashion shoots for cosmetic and clothing lines created by such stars as Rihanna and Kim Kardashian.
"A gut-wrenching, wildly inspiring story about overcoming the most daunting obstacles through steely tenacity, sheer will, and a great big dose of motherly love."
—Jeannette Walls, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Castle
"Unexpectedly powerful...I couldn't put this memoir down. It's as true a tale of grit as I've ever heard, with a message filled with triumph and beauty—that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, if we are loved."
—Angela Duckworth, New York Times bestselling author of Grit
“An inspirational, empowering chronicle...While the story of the author's lifesaving adoption is heartfelt and touching, her journey to unprecedented athletic success is the thrilling heart of the memoir....[The book] also serves as a powerful teaching tool for younger readers facing similar circumstances.”
"Oksana Masters’ riveting journey of survival, perseverance, and triumph is much more than an uplifting sports story. From the darkness and despair of life in a Ukrainian orphanage to the top of the Paralympic medal podium, Masters has written a story for our times. She is a remarkable athlete. She is a heroic and trailblazing woman. She is an American treasure."
—Christine Brennan, USA Today columnist, author of Best Seat in the House, and commentator for CNN, ABC News, and PBS NewsHour
"Heart wrenching and extraordinary. The Hard Parts is a remarkable memoir of coping with trauma, but it's mostly about courage and achieving the impossible. I'm completely in awe of Oskana and her resilience—what an inspiration."
—Ariana Neumann, New York Times bestselling author of When Time Stopped
“Gripping, powerful, and inspiring. As a fellow athlete, I appreciate the commitment and discipline it takes to succeed, but Oksana is on another level altogether. “
—Tony Hawk, 16-time X Game Medalist in skateboarding
“Powerful… This book is not only for sports fans but also for the multitude of readers who will likely want to learn more about this remarkable and courageous woman. Highly recommended.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“The Hard Parts takes us from heartache to courage, from crushing disabilities to exemplary talents, from hopelessness to sky-high aspiration. Here is a young woman who persists with a fierce, undeniable optimism, no matter how devastating the challenges she has faced. Add to this timely story Oksana’s beginnings within the tragic backdrop of a Ukrainian orphanage. A hero lives among us.”
—Diana Nyad, author of Find a Way, and the only person ever to swim 110 miles between Cuba and Florida
"A book of rare quality...In these pages, not only does Oksana Masters triumph over tremendous odds but her victories are so multiple and her courage crosses so many different fronts that she forces us to rethink the term 'Greatest Ever.' Move aside GOATS and make a place for her."
—Sally Jenkins, sports columnist for the Washington Post, bestselling coauthor of Sum It Up, with Pat Summit, and It’s Not About the Bike, with Lance Armstrong
“Oksana has become a record-shattering champion in four sports by continually testing her limits. Like all the greats, she lives on the edge of fear and uses every setback she’s ever had to ask more of herself. A revealing parting of the curtain, THE HARD PARTS is a candid—and often poignant—account of the challenges Oksana overcame along the way to becoming the best ever, and it’s more inspiring than words could ever convey.”
—Mikaela Shiffrin, Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and four-time Overall World Cup Ski Champion