“This Sunday we’re racing for the people of Boston. I’ll be carrying that in my heart as I go through the course. I’m a model for anyone with a disability – a person newly disabled, anyone.”
Sport has plenty of role models but the term has taken on a whole new meaning following this week’s tragic events in Boston when three died and dozens of people lost their limbs in the horrific explosions during the city’s marathon.
And the onus of representing people has never been more poignant with Tatyana McFadden’s participation in the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday.
McFadden was still celebrating her win in the wheelchair race in Boston when the explosions killed three people and injured more than 180 others.
The American’s victory was rendered a mere footnote when set against the tragedy but McFadden has emerged from the traumatic events on Monday to enter the London race as a figurehead for those injured in Boston.
“This Sunday we’re racing for the people of Boston. I’ll be carrying that in my heart as I go through the course. I’m a model for anyone with a disability – a person newly disabled, anyone”, she said.
“It’s almost my job as an athlete to represent them and help them in any way possible. For this Sunday, I will definitely be racing for Boston.”
McFadden was one of the stars of Paralympic athletics at London 2012 – winning T54 gold medals in the 400m, 800m and 1500m – as well as bronze in the 100m. Her ninth place in the marathon was largely due to suffering two punctures on the course.
In fact, the London Marathon has never been a happy hunting ground for McFadden who will be hoping for a very happy 24th birthday on Sunday. As well as those punctures at the Paralympics, she also suffered tyre problems in her previous two appearances in this race, finishing 4th in 2011 and 8th last year.
McFadden is philosophical: “Every time I’ve come to London I’ve had a puncture! It’s just bad luck so I’m determined to get this race. I’ve changed a few things – I’ve looked at different tyres and re-aligning my wheels so that my chair can take all the potholes and bumps.
“You don’t really plan for a flat tyre but I’ve learned to change them pretty quickly to make up all the time I’ve missed.”
McFadden’s life story was well recounted at London 2012, having been abandoned in a Russian orphanage, before being adopted by an American family.
Her battle against the odds summed up the spirit of the Paralympic movement and led to her becoming one of the faces of the Games last summer.
Of course McFadden’s main thoughts this weekend are with everyone caught up in Monday’s explosions, and organisers of the London Marathon could raise over £70,000 for victims of the attack.
That’s because the London Marathon announced they will donate £2 for every finisher on Sunday to The One Fund in Boston – a charity set up to raise money for victims, their families and friends.
McFadden said: “It’s definitely been a tough week, we could not believe what happened. It was so surreal. But the most important part we are gaining from this tragedy is how the community of Boston came together.
“I will be racing for the city. People have been asking if I’m racing in London and I’ve said yes, because you can’t live your life in fear. There are always going to be a few bad people in this world but the majority are good. What we saw in Boston was a community coming together.”
McFadden will also be part of another community joining up on Sunday as the marathon family remembers one of the sport’s darkest hours.