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    Tatyana McFadden

    Ones to watch
    USA USA Para athletics 21 April 1989

    St. Petersburg, Russia

    Tatyana McFadden of the United States celebrates winning a gold medal in the Women's 800m T54 Final at the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships.


    Human Interest
    Data Value
    Impairment Information
    Type of Impairment Spinal Cord Injuries
    Origin of Impairment Congenital
    Classification T54
    Further Personal Information
    Residence Champaign, IL, USA
    Occupation Athlete
    Languages English
    Sport Specific Information
    When and where did you begin this sport? She took up the sport through the Bennett Blazers programme in Baltimore, MD, United States of America. "I got to try everything. They had chairs for basketball, racing chairs, hand bikes if you wanted to bike, swimming, archery. My parents would drive me every weekend and sit there for eight hours, when I did all those different sports."
    Why this sport? She tried a number of sports at the Bennett Blazers programme but fell in love with wheelchair racing. "Because I didn't receive the medical treatment I needed for the first six years of my life, my parents thought it was really important for me to get involved in sports because they knew that was the fastest way to heal and become healthy. By the time I was in the seventh grade, I knew I wanted to be an Olympic athlete. I didn't even know what the Paralympic Games were."
    Name of coach Adam Bleakney [personal], USA
    Training Regime "I work out twice a day, six days a week. Some of my workouts are in the gym, some on the track, and some on open road. My coach develops specific plans that I follow for each session."
    International Debut
    Year 2004
    Competing for United States
    Tournament Paralympic Games
    Location Athens, GRE
    General Interest
    Nicknames Beast (nbcolympics.com, 09 Jun 2016)
    Hobbies Charity projects, sport. (Facebook page, 26 Feb 2019)
    Memorable sporting achievement Winning medals at the Paralympic Games. (Athlete, 17 Jul 2017)
    Most influential person in career Her parents. (Athlete, 17 Jul 2017)
    Hero / Idol Canadian wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc. (Athlete, 17 Jul 2017)
    Injuries Health issues such as blood clots and surgery disrupted her 2017 season, although she was still able to compete at the 2017 World Championships in London, England. (paralympic.org, 15 Apr 2018)
    Sporting philosophy / motto "You have the power to be anything you want to be." (Athlete, 17 Jul 2017)
    Awards and honours In 2021 she was named one of the Power Women of the Year by Women's Running magazine. (womensrunning.com, 08 Jan 2021)

    In 2020 she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by Road Runners Club of America. (tatyanamcfadden.com, 31 Dec 2020)

    She was named in the '30 Under 30 Class Of 2017' by Forbes magazine. (teamusa.org, 03 Jan 2017)

    She was voted Best Female Athlete of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro by the United States Olympic Committee [USOC]. (paralympic.org, 29 Sep 2016)

    She was presented with the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The honour is given to the athlete who has performed at an outstanding level and overcome adversity. (swimmingworldmagazine.com, 15 Sep 2016)

    She received the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award [ESPY] for Best Female Athlete with a Disability in 2016. (baltimoresun.com, 14 Jul 2016)

    She was named the 2015 Female Paralympic Athlete of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee [USOC]. (olympics.nbcsports.com, 11 Dec 2015)

    She received the Juan Antonio Samaranch International Olympic Committee [IOC] Disabled Athlete award in 2015. (insidethegames.biz, 25 Aug 2015)

    She was named Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability at the 2015 Laureus Sports Awards. (rio2016.org.br, 15 Apr 2015)

    She was named the 2014 Female Para Athlete of the Year by USA Track and Field [USATF]. (insidethegames.biz, 21 Dec 2014)
    Other sports She represented the United States of America in cross-country skiing at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, winning silver in the women's sprint sitting event. (SportsDeskOnline, 27 Feb 2019; teamusa.org, 18 Apr 2016)
    Milestones In 2013 she became the first person to win the Boston Marathon, London Marathon, Chicago Marathon and New York Marathon in the same year. She repeated the feat in 2014, 2015 and 2016. (teamusa.org, 21 Feb 2019; insidethegames.biz, 03 Nov 2013)
    Famous relatives Her sister Hannah has represented the United States of America in wheelchair racing, and competed at the Paralympic Games in 2012 and 2016. (SportsDeskOnline, 15 Apr 2021; teamusa.org, 01 Jul 2016)
    Ambitions To compete at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (teamusa.org, 15 Apr 2018)
    Impairment She was born with spina bifida and is paralysed from the waist down. "Usually, babies with spina bifida get surgery immediately after birth to ensure the spinal cord and nerves are enclosed and protected, but for me, that wasn't the case. I had surgery at 21 days old. It was a miracle that I survived." (womenshealthmag.com, 11 Jun 2019; Athlete, 17 Jul 2017; bbc.co.uk, 12 Jul 2013)
    Other information DOCUMENTARY
    She was one of the athletes featured in the 2020 documentary Rising Phoenix, which detailed the history of the Paralympic Movement as well as following the personal journeys of nine Para athletes, including McFadden. She also served as co-producer of the documentary. "We're trying to have a new perception of inspiration. We want to be called inspirational for the work we put in, the medals we get, or how strong we are, not just because we get out of bed every day. We have to break that stereotype." (womensrunning.com, 08 Jan 2021, 17 Jan 2021)

    In November 2016 she noticed swelling around her legs. Although she was initially unconcerned, the problem worsened while she was at a training camp in California, United States of America, and she was unable to get into her racing wheelchair. She was diagnosed with blood clots, which can potentially cause pulmonary embolism and become fatal. She returned home to Maryland, where she had three operations, but she did not finally solve the problem until August 2017 after visiting a doctor that had been recommended by one of her mother's friends. "They went in and looked at the clots in more detail and realised that my blood was slowing down. Being born with spina bifida I have only one kidney and they theorised there was no open and direct route for the vein blood to travel back to my heart." (bostonmagazine.com, 12 Apr 2018)

    She was born paralysed from the waist down due to spina bifida, and was abandoned at an orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation. She did not have a wheelchair, so she learned to walk using her hands. At age six she was adopted by Deborah McFadden, who had visited the orphanage as part of her work as a commissioner for the US Department of Health and Human Sciences. "Lots of people come in and out of the orphanage just wanting to adopt other kids but never a child with a disability. I looked at her [Deborah] and it was just that connection. I told everyone at the orphanage that she was going to be my mum." (The More You Know YouTube channel, 22 Oct 2019; teamusa.org, 01 Jul 2016; Baltimore Sun, 08 Oct 2008)

    In 2006 her adoptive mother Deborah McFadden filed a lawsuit against the Howard County Board of Education in the United States of America. The board had ruled that while it was fine for Tatyana to practise and travel with her able-bodied teammates, she was limited to racing in events designated for wheelchair athletes. School officials said that allowing wheelchair racers and runners to compete at the same time could cause safety problems and change the nature of the sport. The McFaddens had sought permission for their daughter to compete only at the same time as the other runners, not directly against them. She was eventually cleared to compete in Howard County track meets. Known as 'Tatyana's Law', it was initially used in a few US states but became a national law in 2013. "We decided to file a lawsuit for no money and for no damages, but for the right for equal opportunity for people with disabilities to join high school sports. [I thought] if I didn't do it, probably it won't happen. The next person is going to be suffering. I'm not going to be in Paralympics forever but by the time I leave I want to make sure I left that legacy [in which] the doors have opened for many people." (japantimes.co.jp, 27 Nov 2019; bbc.co.uk, 12 Jul 2013; The Washington Post, 19 Apr 2006)

    She has set up the Tatyana McFadden Foundation, which is part of the New York Road Runners Team for Kids in the United States of America. The organisation aims to support young athletes with an impairment. In addition she has served on the board of directo

    The biographies are regularly updated and new biographies of other Paralympic sports will be added frequently. If you find any mistake in a biography, please contact Rafael Maranhao, IPC Public Relations Senior Manager, at rafael.maranhao@paralympic.org.

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