A new Toyota ad featuring Paralympian Jessica Long’s life story is tugging at the heartstrings of many.
Long—who has already won 23 medals, including 13 golds—is the second-most decorated Paralympian in U.S. history. The Toyota commercial featuring her incredible journey debuted during the Super Bowl, which aired on Sunday.
The touching spot shows Long—who was born without fibulas, ankles, and heels—swimming through pivotal moments of her life, including the day her mother got the call that a baby was waiting for her in a Russian orphanage.
“Mrs. Long? We’ve found a baby girl for your adoption, but there’s some things you need to know…She was born with a rare condition. Her legs will need to be amputated…Her life, it won’t be easy,” the woman on the other end of the call tells her on-screen mom.
“It might not be easy, but it’ll be amazing,” Long’s mother replies in the ad. “I can’t wait to meet her.”
According to Saatchi & Saatchi chief creative officer Jason Schragger, the commercial was filmed over a year ago. Executives at the agency and Toyota explored various ideas for this year’s ad. Still, they found themselves drawn back to Long’s inspiring journey to becoming one of the most accomplished Paralympic athletes in U.S. history.
Long, 28, was born in Russia with fibular hemimelia, a rare condition that would require her legs to be amputated below the knees when she was 18 months old. She has had over a dozen surgeries.
She was surrendered to an orphanage by her biological mom, who gave birth to her when she was just 16 years old. At 13 months, she was adopted by a Baltimore couple.
In a 2019 interview with Weekend TODAY, Long spoke about pursuing her dreams despite her disability.
“I knew I didn’t look like the other kids, but I never wanted the fact that I didn’t have legs to hold me back,” she said.
Long discovered her love for swimming at a young age. She would always swim in her grandparents’ pool after church on Sundays, often pretending that she was a mermaid. She’s always loved the water because it’s a place where she can just take off her heavy prosthetics and feel no different.
“I can move in a way I can’t always on land,” she said.
She began swimming competitively at age 10 and made her Paralympic debut at the 2004 Athens Games, where she won three gold medals.
Long is currently busy training for the upcoming Paralympic Games to be held in Tokyo in August after a year’s delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be her fifth time competing for the Paralympics.
In a sense, she felt grateful that the Games were postponed. Long spent most of 2019 preparing for her wedding, so the delay gave her another year to plan.
Toyota’s minute-long spot aims to send the message that “there is hope and strength in all of us.”
“I’m so excited for everyone to see it, and kind of get the full story,” Long said. “Not just the gold medalist Jessica Long, but where it started, in that Russian orphanage.”
The moving ad had lots of people getting emotional. Here are a few comments left by YouTube viewers.
“Best Ad ever. Real people. Real life. Phenomenal.”
“I’ve never been more moved than watching that Toyota ad.”
“Such a wonderful short story! No matter what you are right now, never give up!”
Long tuned into the ad’s Super Bowl debut from Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she arrived last month to train at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center.
You may watch the touching ad in the video below.
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