Toyota’s 2021 Super Bowl commercial didn’t feature any of their products, instead they chose to focus all of their attention on the 13x Paralympic Gold Medalist Swimmer Jessica Long.
She is the second-most decorated Paralympian and she got there by overcoming many challenges.
The commercial, “Upstream,” shows Long swimming throughout her life’s journey. It begins with Long as a baby in a Russian orphanage, to her mom getting the call that she’s been chosen to adopt Long and then all the way up to Long competing at the highest level.
She was born in Siberia with Fibular Hemimelia which means she was born without fibulas in both of her legs. She said she did have a foot with three toes, but once she was adopted at 13 months by a couple in Baltimore, Maryland they decided to have it amputated when she was 18-months-old. This made it easier for Long to wear prosthetic legs and learn to walk.
“They really don’t know why I was born that way. They don’t actually have any information, but in a way, I’m really thankful that it’s all I’ve ever known. It’s very normal to me to walk on prosthetic legs,” Long said.
She has had about 25 surgeries throughout her life. Most of them came due to her bone curving as she grew.
“Before I was a gold medalist I was going back and forth, back into surgery, getting a new set of prosthetics, learning to walk all over again, and then back into surgery,” Long said. “And it was really really hard and from a very early age I just decided that quitting wasn’t an option.”
Long said she’s gotten an incredibly positive response from the commercial and is very thankful that other people love it as much as she does.
“When you’re a little girl, you just never think you’re going to have a Super Bowl commercial,” Long said.
Now she is looking ahead to the Tokyo Paralympic Games and hopes they can happen Summer 2021.
“I’m actually coming back stronger than ever and I really really hope everything still continues,” she said.