Tatyana McFadden: 17-time Paralympic medalist happy to be back after “scariest moment of her career”


The American team athlete, who won 17 medals at the Paralympic Games during his illustrious career, was diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder in 2017, shortly after his six-medal masterclass at the Rio Games 2016.

Between February and April 2017, McFadden describes having “several surgeries” to try to resolve the problem, but the clots “kept coming back and they kept on traveling.”

The 32-year-old describes a 20-month journey to rid her body of the problem, including the resulting lymphedema, to begin her recovery phase.

And because of his position in relation to the preparation of his competitors, competing in his sixth Paralympic Games has never been easy after going through the “scariest period” of his career.

McFadden will compete in five different events in Tokyo in the T54 standings. According to World Para Athletics, in the T54 classification, “Athletes have greater total muscle power in the arms and part to total muscle power in the trunk. Athletes may have some function in the legs.”
“I think if we were talking maybe in 2018 or 2019, I probably would have said, ‘I don’t know’ because my speeds weren’t quite there, I was quite far from the leader,” he said. McFadden told CNN’s Selina Wang. .

“I had good runs and I had bad runs, but I surprised myself, and I did well in marathons and I was still hanging on, I was hanging on. was in my recovery phase, everyone was going faster. “

READ: She lost her legs in a terrorist attack. Now she competes in the Paralympic Games
McFadden competes in the women's T53 / 54 5,000m wheelchair final at the 2021 US Paralympic Trials.

“We are having a good fight”

For McFadden, of Russian origin, it has been a long road to reach the top of his discipline.

From being raised in an orphanage in St. Petersburg without any disability assistance to being adopted by her American mother and moving to the United States at the age of six, she has become accustomed to struggling with hardships. .

McFadden attributes the difficulties she had to overcome as a child to why she became such a successful athlete.

She recently discovered as part of an NHK documentary that part of her brain, the part generally attributed to the feeling of “will” in humans, is larger than the normal person.

“I think it came to learning how to survive the conditions I was in and having that will to live the next day, the next day, the next day.”

Since being introduced to parasport by her mother as a way to help her grow as a person, McFadden has seen big changes.

However, the road has not been easy. She remembers returning to the United States after making her Paralympic debut at the 2004 Athens Games, excited to start competing at her new high school.

However, she was refused a uniform and told that she was not allowed to compete. “My freshman was like, ‘I think I am being discriminated against. I think I am 100% discriminated against because I have a disability,” she recalls.

In 2005, McFadden and her mother Deborah filed a lawsuit against the Howard County public school system and won the right for her to run alongside the runners.

And this year’s Paralympic Games are particularly memorable for the 32-year-old because of her journey.

Ahead of his competitive action, McFadden paid tribute to all the “wonderful change” that has taken place in parasport. The Tokyo 2020 Games are the first in which the U.S. team’s athletes – Olympians and Paralympians – are paid equally, regardless of gender.

“We’ve come a long way and we’re fighting a good fight, and it’s for all the right reasons,” she said.

“We’re defenders for a good reason, and I’m so excited and I’m so happy. I think a medal I win at these Games is going to mean a lot more than any other medal I think I won at the Games. I am incredibly happy and grateful to the athletes who came before me and continue to be that voice. Obviously Paralympic athletes are there for the love of the sport.

McFadden finished first in the women's wheelchair category at the 2019 New York City Half.

The respect

During his 16-year career as an athlete, McFadden accomplished almost everything that needed to be accomplished.

She has won seven Paralympic gold, six silver and three bronze medals in a variety of different sports, from track and field races over different distances to the marathon.

She even found time to win a silver medal at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi in the 1km cross-country ski sprint.

On top of all this, she has won the wheelchair divisions of numerous marathons – including those in Boston, London and New York – and won 17 medals at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Championships, including 13 gold. .

Silverware doesn’t lie: McFadden is a serial winner.

Yet despite this, she also understood the importance of maintaining good physical and mental health as an athlete.

Speaking of US team athlete Simone Biles who chose not to compete on the grounds of her sanity, McFadden says she is “proud of herself because it’s difficult.”

McFadden during a project track

“For athletes, we put so much on ourselves and we honestly think we are failures if we don’t win or get the upper hand,” she said. “I feel like there is a mindset that only gold is highlighted, that silver and bronze are just OK.

“And we worked for four years on that. And so we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, almost too much. And so I think looking at mental health is super important because a healthy lifestyle should be goal no. 1. Everything else should come second and third and so on.

“We’re already champions to be part of the squad. And then the next one, we’re champions to go into the final because we’re the top eight in the world at this point and nobody can do what we do. a lot seeing someone get on a racing chair and go 26.2 miles in under two hours. It takes time. It takes dedication and special skill. So I applaud all the athletes who spoke about mental health. because it made me realize, “I’m all will be fine. Everything will be alright. And we are role models because the world listens to us. ‘”

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