Paralympic Wheelchair Racer, Nordic Skier, 4-time World Major Marathon Grand Slam Winner & 17-Time Paralympic Medalist
Winning 20 Paralympic medals, 17 World medals, and countless major marathons is no easy feat, especially when you are facing adversity like Tatyana McFadden. McFadden was born with spina bifida, a hole in her spine, and spent the first six years of her life in a Russian orphanage. Being paralyzed from the waist down, having no wheelchair access, and learning to walk on her hands would lead her down a path that she could have never dreamed of… and she’s not done yet.
In 1994 on a work-related trip to Russia, then Commissioner of Disabilities for the U.S. Department of Health, Deborah McFadden, met Tatyana while visiting her orphanage. Deborah immediately felt an unexplainable connection and adopted McFadden, knowing that she could give her a better life. Once in the United States, McFadden enrolled in various sports groups with hopes to build her strength that was lacking after the poor healthcare at the orphanage. This is where she fell in love with wheelchair racing.
At 15, McFadden made her first appearance in the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games, bringing home two medals and was hungry for more. She continued on to the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing adding four medals, and onto the 2012 London Games where she collected another four medals, three of them being gold. At the 2013 World Championships, she made history becoming the first athlete to win six gold medals at the same competition.
McFadden wanted to challenge herself even more and entered the professional marathon circuit in 2009, winning the Chicago Marathon. In 2013, she was the first man or woman, able-bodied or disabled, to win the Grand Slam (Boston, London, Chicago, and New York Marathons in the same year). In 2014, 2015, and 2016 she repeated this remarkable achievement. She has won 24 World Major Marathons. She made her Winter Paralympic debut in the 2014 Sochi Games with less than a year of on-snow training for cross country ski racing. This is where she earned the 11th Paralympic medal of her career, a silver. In 2016, she again made the USA team for the Rio games and came home with 4 gold and 2 silver medals. Most recently, McFadden brought home a gold, silver, and bronze from the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
She has since graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies and graduated with her master’s degree in Spring of 2019. When she is not training for one of her many athletic sports, she loves working as a national advocate for healthy lifestyle through sports and nutrition and mentoring youth in her community.
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