There are not many athletes in history who have come from so little to accomplish so much. Tatyana McFadden is one of them. Born with spina bifida, a hole in her spine, Tatyana spent the first six years of her life in a Russian orphanage, discarded, with virtually nothing, not even a wheelchair. Paralyzed from the waist down, the only way she could get around, was to “walk” on her hands. But, as unlikely as it would seem, developing powerful arms and hands as a child has made her one of the world’s greatest athletes!
In 1994, she was adopted by Deborah McFadden, then Commissioner of Disabilities for the U.S. Department of Health, and brought to the United States where she was presented with a new life. After trying various sports like wheelchair basketball, swimming, ice hockey and even scuba diving, she fell in love with wheelchair racing. This was the perfect fit for her powerful arms and she found immediate success.
At 15, Tatyana made her Paralympic debut in Athens in 2004. As the youngest member of Team USA, she returned from Greece with her first two medals and the desire to win more. Two years later she was, winning gold at the World Championships and setting a new World Record in the 100 meter event. At the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, at 19, she earned four more medals. In London, in 2012, she added another four medals, three of which were gold. One year later, at the 2013 World Championships, she became the first athlete in history to win six gold medals at the same competition. At 24 she was destined for greatness!
Tatyana’s dominance of the sport was realized this year. In 2013 she became the first person – male or female, able-bodied or in a wheelchair – to win four major marathons in a year (Boston, London, Chicago and New York). When she won the New York City Marathon this year, she completed the Grand Slam in distance racing for the second consecutive year, furthering cementing her name into the record books as one of the best ever.
She might have started with very little but she has achieved so much and has set the bar so high that it’s almost impossible for anyone else to challenge her!