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Unstoppable Women: Brittni Mason

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16 Feb 2024

Brittni, a young Paralympian, smiling and holding up her finger in a number one sign, while wearing the Team USA top

Brittni Mason is a track athlete and three-time Paralympic medalist. She competed in the Tokyo Paralympic games (2020) winning gold and two silvers, and breaking a world record. She’s also won various medals at world championships and recently graduated with two Masters degrees and her aesthetician license.  

Nicole: I'm excited to highlight you, Brittni. Could you tell us about yourself?

Brittni: My name is Brittni Mason. I am from Cleveland, Ohio. I am a professional athlete. I run short sprints for Team USA’s Paralympic team. I went to my first Paralympic Games in 2021, which was amazing, and I've been running professionally since 2019. 

Other stuff about me: I ran through college, graduated in 2020 with my undergrad degree, and then received my two masters after that in 2021 and 2022. 

Nicole: Such an underachiever. Really setting the bar low for everybody else. What was your journey to the Paralympics? 

Brittni: I've been running track since I was 10 years old. I didn't imagine that this would be my journey. And, I also didn't know I was eligible for the Paralympics. 

Someone actually reached out to my coach, asking them if I was interested. And I was like, “Well, I don't have a disability” and they replied, “Don't you have Erb's Palsy?” 

I said “yeah,” and they're like, “Well, that's a disability.” 

So I started in 2019 with my very first world championships. Then COVID happened and I trained through 2021 for my very first Paralympic Games. It was a really quick transition. I was still actually in college. 

Nicole: How has your personal perception of your identity or your mindset changed? You didn’t previously identify as a person with a disability and then you competed in the Paralympics.

Brittni: Yeah, it absolutely has been a shift. Growing up, I always knew that I had nerve damage in my left shoulder and arm. I never let that hinder me and neither did my parents allow it to hinder me. I played sports in my everyday life, so I never grew up believing that my disability was limiting. 

Now that I’m in this space, and I'm running with so many people that have very similar disabilities as me, we're trying to bring more awareness to the Paralympic movement. 

I feel like I have shifted my mindset just a little bit. I'm still the same person, but I do acknowledge the fact that I do have a disability and I do have nerve damage. 

And I'm not afraid to talk about it and educate other people about it. Still, when people talk to me, they're like, “Well, you don't look disabled.” And I reply, “Well, yeah, not every disability is visible.”

We still can do the same things that everyone else can do with a little bit more of a challenge. Honestly, I think the things that a lot of disabled athletes have had to overcome in their everyday life, to even compete, is impressive.

Nicole: Your condition, Erb's Palsy, how does that impact your mobility?

Brittni: I was born with Erbs Palsy, which is a form of brachial plexus, so it limits my range of motion in my left shoulder and then also the tendon near my elbow is very short. It's not fully lengthened, so my arm doesn't lengthen all the way up. My shoulder’s range of motion is really impacted. 

Movement is very difficult with things that are more so overhead. Those types of things, such as lifting overhead, are a little bit more challenging. I’ve just learned to overcompensate on my right side in order for my left side to kind of balance out a little bit.

Nicole: Could you tell me a little bit more about the difference between your athletic career and your other professional career? How did you decide to pursue that path? And how do you balance them?

Brittni: Before running professionally, I wanted to be a Physician’s Assistant (PA) because I love helping people. I love working with children. I've always nannied and that's where I thought that I was going to be. 

Now, that definitely shifted when I became a professional athlete. We travel a lot; we are gone for months at a time, so I can't do clinicals and things like that. And this was prior to a lot of online classes that are now available since COVID happened.

I didn't think I was going to be a professional athlete. When the chance presented itself, I thought: I'm going to use this opportunity because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I might not always be able to run. 

I ended up switching my career path and wanting to do business because I also was interested in the business side of sports. I already had an exercise physiology degree from undergrad, so I decided to get my MBA and my sports management degree. 

And then I use my MBA to start my own business within the beauty industry, because that's something I've also been passionate about. It’s something I can do on my own time, given the intense schedule that I had with traveling and competing. 

I've always been interested in nails, lashes, skincare, hair and things like that. So I thought, you know what, why not go into that? I ended up falling in love with it and getting my esthetician license.

Brittni posing in front of a fireplace, looking pretty and cozy

Nicole: Do you think you'll ever open a store?

Brittni: I've been thinking about it! Maybe in the future I could have a one stop shop with other people. Something where you can get all the services done: lashes, nails, hair, and waxing. It would be like a girl cave for everyone to come and relax.

Nicole: I love that. And so you are clearly very busy. You have a lot going on. Really amazing things. What is some of the best advice you've received or advice that you try and follow?

Brittni: Anything's possible. 

A lot of the things I do now, I could have never imagined it. In college, I thought running was draining and exhausting, but it opened up a whole new world for me to be a professional athlete. I try not to set limits for myself. 

Then just having a positive mindset. When you're a professional athlete, everyone sees the glory of it, right? There's so much that goes into every day of being a professional athlete and it is not as glamorous as people think it is. 

It's an honor to have the ability to compete and compete at that level; it’s a blessing, but you have to choose every day to go to practice and you have to have the positive mindset to get through practice. 

I know that it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to get to that starting line for every race. 

And then I would say another one would be just being myself. Not changing regardless of the accolades that you've accomplished. When you have success, people sometimes expect you to be snobby or uppity. We're humans too. We make mistakes. We still like to have friends and meet people.

When people ask me for my autograph, especially little kids, I'm like, “Me?” That makes me happy and they're over here super excited that I'm signing their autograph.

And I'm like, “Wow, you think that I'm cool enough to get my autograph.” I just keep humble and keep going.

Nicole: You said being an athlete, especially at a high level, is not very glamorous. Could you give me the tiniest glimpse into what goes into a normal week or day?

Brittni: We'll go back to last Tuesday. We’d just gotten back from Christmas “break,” where we still had workouts that we had to do. 

We're going into the indoor season and this is a major championship year. I personally have Worlds in May and I have the games in August. For the first time ever, in history, we have both World Championships and the Paralympic Games in one year. 

So everyday I get up, eat breakfast, and go to practice. I warmed up and then my coach told me my workout, and halfway through the workout, my legs just kind of gave out a little bit. 

I threw up a couple of times and then I still had to get back up and finish the other half of the workout. And then I have to go run. And you know, make sure I eat in between and then recover, and then do it again the next day. 

We lift three times a week right now and we're running about four to five depending on the week. And then some weekends we have track meets.

Nicole: I'm reminded of one time where in tennis class they gave us a very intense workout. I was not an athletic child, I'll say, and then my entire body just gave out. My brain was telling my limbs one thing and they were choosing to lay on the ground instead. 

Brittni: I was on all fours and my coach comes over, and he's trying to get me up. I'm like, “You have to let me go or I'm going to throw up.” I definitely understand when your body gives out, especially with running. When we come to practice, you have to run in order to run. 

When athletes play basketball or soccer, they run a lot but you can do different drills. We don't ever come to track practice and not run. It's a love-hate.

Nicole: Very fair. Then my last question, what brings you joy?

Brittni: Oh, there are a lot of things that bring me joy actually.

In terms of track, I like proving to myself that I can accomplish things that I've set goals for. Like, I really had that on my vision board. I really had that goal and I achieved that. 

Then also being a mentor and having other people look up to me, that really melts my heart because it's like I'm making an impact on the world. Even if it's just a couple people that look up to me, I like helping others and being a mentor for them to come to and feel comfortable talking to. 

I like spending time with my family, my boyfriend, and my friends. I love shopping! That brings me lots of joy and then I like self care stuff. I like being able to take care of my mental health by getting my nails done, my lashes and my hair. Those things make you feel good. 

If I had to have a hard week of practice, then let's go get some massages. Let's get a pedicure. Things like that really make me happy.

Nicole: This was lovely. Thank you, Brittni.

Brittni: Yes, thank you.

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