Jessica Long, 20, a swimmer for the U.S. Paralympic team and world record holder in 13 Paralympic events, took home gold medals in three of her freestyle swimming events in the 2004 Athens Paralympic games and four gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, as well as a silver and a bronze.

When Long was only 18 months old, her lower legs were amputated as a result of fibular hemimelia, a congenital absence or shortening of the fibula. The surgery allowed Long to prepare for and adjust to the use of prosthetics.

“I think with being a paralympic athlete, we’re all, we’re going to face challenges — we already have our whole lives,” Long told Uinterview exclusively. “For me, it’s been my legs, with surgeries throughout growing up. Even that, since 2004, I’ve had, still, many surgeries on my legs, many things that have come in my way, blocked my goal. You know, you just have to overcome them and still have faith and continue to push on.”

Long has an intense daily workout regimen for the Paralympic games, for which she trains at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center. “I’m in the pool every morning from 7:00 to 9:00, and then definitely breakfast is very important after. I like to eat breakfast with the team …. Then I like to do dry land abs and stretching after the morning workout,” followed by weights, practice, wrapping up with Yoga or Pilates. “I’m in bed by like 9:00,” Long said, laughing. “You really gotta love it. If you don’t love it, it can feel like the day goes on forever.”

Luckily, that’s not usually a problem for Long. “But I definitely — I love it,” she told us. “I love what I do and I love getting stronger every day.”

The Paralympic games’ opening ceremonies kick off in London on Wednesday, August 29.

For more on the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics:

U.S. Olympic Diver David Boudia

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Olympic Diver Cassidy Krug Describes The Perfect Dive

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Olympian Nick McCrory Talks Diving With David Boudia

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Olympic Diver Kristian Ipsen Is ‘Not Wearing Much’

U.S. Synchronized Diving Partners David Boudia & Nick McCrory Win Bronze In London

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