At age three, Linda Mastandrea was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, causing diplegia in her lower limbs. It wasn’t until Linda was in college at the University of Illinois did athletics even become a part of her life.
Mastandrea was recruited by the university’s wheelchair basketball coach to become part of the team. Once she took to the floor, Mastandrea became immersed with athletics, eventually pushing herself into track and field.
It didn’t take long for Mastandrea’s competitive fire to burn on the track as she quickly began winning every race imaginable. 100, 200 and 400 meters were no sweat for Mastandrea. In 1992, she joined the United States Paralympic team and traveled to Barcelona, Spain for the Summer Paralympics where she participated in the discus event.
Four years later, Mastandrea was back in action at the Summer Games in Atlanta and took home a gold medal with a world-record outcome in the 200-meter race. Mastandrea also took part in the World Championships and in Pan American competition, winning a total of 15 gold medals and five silver in just seven years.
Mastandrea is also a published author (together with her sister Donna). Their book, titled Sports and the Physically Challenged: An Encyclopedia of People, Events and Organizations, came on the market in October 2006. She has been published in numerous disability publications, including New Mobility, Sports ‘n’ Spokes, We Media and Exceptional Parent.
Mastandrea is also actively involved in the disability advocacy and sports communities. She chairs the Lawyer’s Advisory Committee for Access Living. She is vice president of the National Disability Sports Alliance and served two years on the United States Olympic Committee Board of Directors. Mastandrea was the Director of Paralympic Sports & Accessibility for Chicago’s 2016 Olympic and Paralympic bid.
Mastandrea was the first female Paralympian inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame with the 2009-2010 class.