Touch the wall - early and often. That was swimmer Jessica Long's goal at the Paralympic Games in Beijing.
The Middle River teenager accomplished her task. Long won six medals - four gold, one silver and a bronze -and set three world records at the Games, which ended Tuesday.
That done, she set out to complete the other mission she set for the China trip.
Touch the Wall. The Great Wall.
It was no easy job for Long, who wears prosthetics because her legs were amputated below the knees. But yesterday she was clattering up the rough-hewn steps and uneven slopes on her artificial limbs to stand with her teammates on the Great Wall.
"It was hard, a lot of steps, but I did it," Long, 16, said.
And her take on the panoramic view there?
She returns to Baltimore today with a trove of medals. No matter that they aren't all gold, said Long, who won three events at the 2004 Paralympics.
This time, her pre-Games mantra had been: seven races, seven golds.
"That was a little disappointing," she said, especially her final event, the 50-meter freestyle, in which she placed sixth. It was the only race in which Long failed to medal.
"I think I was just exhausted from the whole meet," she said. "But I'm proud of all I did, and I was happy with my swims.
"It was a lot of work. These [medals] mean more than 2004 because the competition was that much tougher. It just shows you how amazing it was for Michael Phelps to win eight golds."
As a top seed in many events, Long - like Phelps - got to swim in lanes 4 and 5, as favorites do at the Water Cube, Beijing's aquatics center.
"I stood on the same blocks that Michael did," Long said. "That was cool, too."
Andrew Barranco, Long's coach, called her showing "a solid performance" and predicted more to come.
"These Games were another great step in Jess' development," said Barranco, an assistant coach for the U.S. team. "I'd expect her to blossom into a great swimmer. Can she compete in 2012? Absolutely. She'll only be 20 years old."
For now, Long wants to rest and revel in the moment. And to her way of thinking at least, she achieved her goal of winning seven golds.
"It just took me two Paralympics to do it," she said.