Rivalry returns at Chicago marathon

De Rozario and McFadden go head to head once again 04 Oct 2018
female wheelchair racers Tatyana McFadden and Madison de Rozario going head to head on the track

Tatyana McFadden (L) and Madison de Rozario will renew their rivalry on the road at the Chicago marathon

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By World Para Athletics

Madison de Rozario and Tatyana McFadden rekindle their marathon rivalry in Chicago, USA on Sunday (7 October) six months after the Australian won in the streets of London.

Commonwealth champion de Rozario returns to the roads after spending the last few months at home training in Sydney. The 24-year-old admitted she is still coming to terms with her new-found status as a major marathon champion.

“It’s a conversation I’ve had with my coach (Louise Sauvage),” admitted de Rozario, who won the Commonwealth marathon in April, one week before winning in the British capital.

“I speak so highly of the other women because they’re amazing and Louise is like, you know you’re one of them, right?

“I’ve been racing for 10 years trying to get to where I am, and now I’m here I’m not really sure what to do with that! It’s a bit weird going in to races and being expected to perform. That was one of the most stressful parts of Commonwealth Games.”

Best season yet

In what the Australian admits has been “by far the best season I’ve ever had,” de Rozario is slowly learning to accept that she can mix it with the best.

“I’m backing myself a little bit more,” she acknowledged.

“I’ve always been a bit nervous that I’m not good enough to hang with everyone and that at some point I will get dropped. So to be more confident over the whole race and still have that little bit more at the end – that’s given me a lot more confidence.”

As for multiple world and Paralympic champion McFadden, the American is not short on experience.

She has won the Chicago marathon a phenomenal seven times in a row and eight overall – this would be title number nine - and has more than 20 marathon victories to her name.

Tough Tatyana

But the 29-year-old was dealt a frustrating blow last month, suffering a break to her racing chair two days before the Berlin marathon in Germany.

Forced to borrow a chair – Marcel Hug arranged for his spare to be brought to Berlin – she suffered painful abrasions to her arms which rubbed the frame for 26.2 miles.

After suffering severe blood clots last year, McFadden is fast becoming used to bouncing back from adversity and she remains focused and upbeat despite the fact she will use another borrowed chair, from coach Adam Bleakney, for this weekend’s race.

“It’s water underneath the bridge; I’m still really excited to race Chicago and to do the best that I can. I’m pushing well in Adam’s chair and we made it really work well,” said McFadden.

“I heal pretty fast so my arms are doing fine. Berlin was what it was – I was going about as fast as I could go, so to do it in about two hours was a character push.

“It has made me mentally strong in that I know I can cross that line even though I was rubbing the entire race. You are always going to have challenges that come your way. It’s how you hurdle over those and just get back in to racing.”

Mental growth

McFadden completed her internship this summer, working 12-hour shifts in the emergency and acute care departments at two hospitals in Boston, and she admitted the work also helped her to “grow mentally.”

“I saw how the outside world perceives people with disabilities,” she explained.

“I’ve had internships I didn’t get because I’m in a wheelchair; I’ve had people ask me ‘are you a patient?’. Working at those two hospitals was such a great experience - I learned from them and they learned from me.

“I was like, wow, this is what it feels like to be a real person, working all day then trying to go train! But I really kept myself in good shape, I didn’t lose any muscle or fitness.”

McFadden, while still humble and deeply respectful of her competitors, clearly has the mental fortitude to help her excel as she takes on this weekend’s race in testing circumstances – an attitude built on years of experience and success. It’s a mindset that de Rozario now deserves to share.