Jessica Long turned 'anger and abandonment' into Paralympic glory. GETTY IMAGES

Paralympic swimming legend Jessica Long is aiming for more success at the upcoming Paris Games after a challenging journey from a Siberian orphanage to an extraordinary career in the pool.

Jessica Long is a swimming legend for the USA, having won 29 Paralympic medals - one more than Michael Phelps. She started competing at the age of 12, in Athens 2004. Now 32, she plans to retire in Los Angeles in 2028 - which means two more Olympic Games to win more medals. 

"Obviously I want to win gold and do the best that I can. Whatever happens, I'm so very grateful and proud of what I've done... I think that it would be amazing to finish on home soil," Long told AFP in an interview. 

Long won't surpass Trischa Zorn's record of 55 Olympic medals, set 20 years ago. They didn't compete under the same rules, with swimmers now limited to seven events, so Long's maximum tally before Los Angeles is 49 medals.

Jessica Long competing in the 100m butterfly at Tokyo 2020. GETTY IMAGES
Jessica Long competing in the 100m butterfly at Tokyo 2020. GETTY IMAGES

"I wonder what I could have win if I could have swum more events. Especially when you're young and your body doesn't hurt. In one Paralympics (Seoul 1988) she (Zorn) won 12 gold medals because there were more opportunities. Bring back the events!," said Long.

Long's life has been so hard. Born in the Siberian city of Bratsk, she was abandoned by her biological parents in Russia when she was an infant. She grew up in Baltimore after being adopted from an orphanage at the age of one by American couple Steve and Beth Long.

The swimming legend met her birth parents in her early 20s, when she had already won several Olympic medals, and she fully understands the potential challenges and difficulties she would have faced if she hadn't been adopted.

Jessica Long before a race at Tokyo 2020. GETTY IMAGES
Jessica Long before a race at Tokyo 2020. GETTY IMAGES

"I don't think my life would have been very good, it would have been very ugly. I think you can only imagine what orphans go through; they go through a lot of terrible things. Horrible sex trafficking. I think that would have been my life," Long said.

She admitted to AFP that she had a difficult childhood. Being handicapped or abandoned by her biological parents made her "angry all the time", but she used that feeling to become one of the best swimmers of all time.

"People ask me where my success comes from, and I would say 'abandonment and anger'. I really think my success came from just wanting to be good enough and at some point, I had to really re-evaluate and say, 'I just love to swim'," Long said.