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INTERNATIONAL PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE
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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.

Tatyana McFadden

Athletics
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Tatyana McFadden is arguably the world’s best female wheelchair racer of all time. With seven Paralympic titles, 15 world gold medals and over 20 major marathon wins to her name, the American has become a dominant force in women’s wheelchair racing, both on the track and out on the roads.

Born with spina bifida in St Petersburg, Russia, McFadden was raised in an orphanage, where without a wheelchair, she was left to walk using her hands for the next six years.

In 1994, she was adopted by Debbie McFadden, who was working as the commissioner of disabilities for the USA’s health department, moved to the USA and took up sport to help regain her health.

Ten years after moving to the States, McFadden represented her newly adopted country at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games. At just 15 and the youngest USA squad member she won 100m T54 silver (16.69) and 200m T54 bronze (30.48).

Two years later at the 2006 World Championships, she won 100m T54 (16.31) gold and silver medals in the 200m (29.25) and 400m (54.25).

In Beijing, she came up against Canada’s Chantal Petitclerc, an athlete in her prime who was determined to bow out on a high at her final Paralympic Games.

As a result of Petitclerc’s world record-breaking form, McFadden had to settle for silver in the 200m (28.43), 400m (53.49) and 800m T54 (1:46.95) losing out to the Canadian in each of the races. She also picked up a bronze in the 4x100m T53-54 relay (1:02.16).

At the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in New Zealand McFadden took top spot in the 200m (29.33), 400m (54.88), 800m (1:51.10) and 1,500m (3:36.20) – setting Championship records in the two longer distances – she also won silver in the 4x 400m relay (3:57.39) and bronze in the 100m (16.83).

In London, her third Games, she finally won Paralympic gold not once, but three times. She was top of the podium in the 400m (52.97), 800m (1:47.01) and in the 1,500m T54 3:36.42). In the 100m she secured bronze (16.15).

At the 2013 World Championships in Lyon, France, she made history winning six golds in the 100m (16.42), 200m (28.69), 400m (53.74), 800m (1:44.44), 1,500m (3:34.06) and 5,000m (12:08.07). She also broke Petitclerc’s 800m T54 world record.

In 2013 McFadden also became the first athlete ever to complete a marathon Grand Slam – winning in Boston, London, New York and Chicago, a feat she repeated in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

At the end of that year, McFadden graduated from University – she also set herself a new target to qualify for the US Nordic skiing team for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

She not only made the team, but won a silver medal in the 1km cross-country sprint.

Soon after Sochi, McFadden returned to wheelchair racing, breaking the 1,500m T54 world record to complete another successful year.

She missed the 2015 World Championships but still found time to set new world records in the 400m, 800m and 1,500m T54. She also won a Laureus Sports Award.

At the 2016 Rio Games, McFadden contested a phenomenal seven events, from the 100m through to the marathon, as well as the women’s 4x400m T53/54. She medalled in all six individual races, winning four golds (400m, 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m T54) and two silvers (100m, marathon).

The 2017 season had both highs and lows for McFadden, who missed much of the early part of the year due to severe blood clots in her legs which required surgery.

But when it came to winning medals, there was no stopping her.

Weeks after returning to training, McFadden lined up at the London 2017 World Championships – and won all four of the events she raced in, becoming the most successful female Para athlete of the Championships.

McFadden went on to win the Chicago marathon in October – her seventh consecutive victory in the US city.

She was named in the '30 Under 30 Class of 2017' by Forbes magazine.

Biography

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. "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."
Club / Team
University of Illinois Wheelchair Racing Team: Champaign, IL, USA
Name of coach
Adam Bleakney [club, national], USA
Training Regime
She covers about 120 miles in her wheelchair each week, and also does two weights sessions.

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 in 2004, 2012 and 2016. (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
She was named in the '30 Under 30 Class Of 2017' by Forbes magazine. (teamusa.org, 03 Jan 2017)

She was voted the 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 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 sprint - sitting women 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)

She was the first female Para athlete to win six gold medals at a single world championships, claiming victory in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m at the 2013 edition of the tournament in Lyon, France. (insidethegames.biz, 03 Nov 2013)
Famous relatives
Her sister Hannah has represented the United States of America in wheelchair racing. She won gold in the T54 400m at the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto, ON, Canada. (SportsDeskOnline, 05 Sep 2016; 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. (Athlete, 17 Jul 2017; bbc.co.uk, 12 Jul 2013)
Other information
BLOOD CLOT CONCERNS
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)

MOVE TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
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. (teamusa.org, 01 Jul 2016; Baltimore Sun, 08 Oct 2008)

LEGAL BATTLE
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. (bbc.co.uk, 12 Jul 2013; The Washington Post, 19 Apr 2006)

OTHER ACTIVITIES
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 directors for the Illinois Spina Bifida Association, and she is also the author of a children's book called 'Ya Sama! Moments from My Life' in which she writes about her experiences when she was young. (self.com, 14 May 2019; athletesquarterly.com, 20 May 2018)

FURTHER STUDIES
In May 2019 she earned a master's degree in education from the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL, United States of America. (self.com, 14 May 2019)

Results

Unit Date Rank
Athens 2004 Paralympic Games (Athens, Greece)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m T54 Heat 1 1
Women's 100 m T54 Final Round 2
Women's 200 m T54 Heat 2 1
Women's 200 m T54 Final Round 3
Women's 400 m T54 Heat 2 2
Women's 400 m T54 Final Round 5
Women's 800 m T54 Heat 2 5
IPC Athletics World Championships Assen 2006 (Assen, Netherlands)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 800 m T54 Final Round 4
Women's 800 m T54 Heat 3 1
Women's 400 m T54 Final Round 2
Women's 400 m T54 Heat 1 1
Women's 100 m T54 Heat 1 1
Women's 100 m T54 Final Round 1
Women's 200 m T54 Heat 2 1
Women's 200 m T54 Final Round 2
Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games (Beijing, China)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m T54 Heat 2 3
Women's 100 m T54 Final Round 6
Women's 200 m T54 Heat 3 2
Women's 200 m T54 Final Round 2
Women's 400 m T54 Heat 2 2
Women's 400 m T54 Final Round 2
Women's 800 m T54 Heat 2 1
Women's 800 m T54 Final Round 2
Women's 4x100 m T53/54 Final Round 3
2011 IPC Athletics World Championships (Christchurch, New Zealand)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m T54 Heat 2 2011-01-22 3
Women's 100 m T54 Final 2011-01-23 3
Women's 800 m T54 Heat 1 2011-01-24 1
Women's 200 m T54 Final 2011-01-25 1
Women's 800 m T54 Final 2011-01-25 1
Women's 1500 m T53/54 Heat 2 2011-01-26 1
Women's 4x400 m T53/54 Final 2011-01-27 2
Women's 400 m T54 Heat 1 2011-01-28 1
Women's 1500 m T53/54 Final 2011-01-28 1
Women's 400 m T54 Final 2011-01-29 1
London 2012 Paralympic Games (London, Great Britain)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 400 m T54 Final Round 2012-09-03 1
Women's 400 m T54 Heat 2 2012-09-03 1
Women's 800 m T54 Heat 1 2012-09-04 1
Women's 800 m T54 Final Round 2012-09-05 1
Women's 1500 m T54 Heat 1 2012-09-06 3
Women's 1500 m T54 Final Round 2012-09-07 1
Women's 100 m T54 Heat 2 2012-09-08 2
Women's 100 m T54 Final Round 2012-09-08 3
Women's Marathon T54 Final Round 2012-09-09 9
IPC Athletics World Championships (Lyon, France)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 5000 m T54 Semifinal 1 2013-07-20 10
Women's 200 m T54 Semifinal 2 2013-07-20 1
Women's 5000 m T54 Final 1 2013-07-21 1
Women's 200 m T54 Final 1 2013-07-21 1
Women's 800 m T54 Semifinal 2 2013-07-22 1
Women's 800 m T54 Final 1 2013-07-23 1
Women's 100 m T54 Semifinal 1 2013-07-24 2
Women's 1500 m T54 Semifinal 1 2013-07-24 2
Women's 1500 m T54 Final 1 2013-07-25 1
Women's 100 m T54 Final 1 2013-07-25 1
Women's 400 m T54 Semifinal 1 2013-07-26 1
Women's 400 m T54 Final 1 2013-07-27 1
Paralympic Winter Games 2014 (Sochi, Russia)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 12 km Sitting Final Round 2014-03-09 5
Women's 1 km Sprint Sitting Final Round 2014-03-12 2
4x2.5 km Mixed Relay Final Round 2014-03-15 6
Women's 5 km Sitting Final Round 2014-03-16 7
2015 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships Cable (Cable, United States of America)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's Long Distance - Free Style Sitting Race 1 2015-01-25 8
Women's Sprint - Classic Sitting Race 1 2015-01-28 6
Women's Middle Distance - Classic Sitting Race 1 2015-01-31 9
Mixed Relay Final 2015-02-01 7
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m T54 Heat 1 2016-09-08 2
Women's 100 m T54 Final Round 2016-09-09 2
Women's 400 m T54 Heat 2 2016-09-11 1
Women's 400 m T54 Final Round 2016-09-11 1
Women's 1500 m T54 Heat 1 2016-09-12 1
Women's 1500 m T54 Final Round 2016-09-13 1
Women's 5000 m T54 Heat 1 2016-09-14 1
Women's 5000 m T54 Final Round 2016-09-15 1
Women's 4x400 m T53/54 Final Round 2016-09-15 9999
Women's 800 m T54 Heat 1 2016-09-17 1
Women's 800 m T54 Final Round 2016-09-17 1
Women's Marathon T54 Final Round 2016-09-18 2
World Para Athletics Championships London 2017 (London, Great Britain)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 200 m T54 Final 1 2017-07-15 1
Women's 1500 m T54 Heat 1 2017-07-15 6
Women's 400 m T54 Heat 2 2017-07-16 1
Women's 400 m T54 Final 1 2017-07-17 1
Women's 1500 m T54 Final 1 2017-07-17 1
Women's 800 m T54 Heat 2 2017-07-18 1
Women's 800 m T54 Final 1 2017-07-19 1