Tatyana McFadden

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Tatyana McFadden
T McFadden London Marathon 2014 - Wheelchair (65).jpg
Tatyana McFadden in London 2012
Personal information
Nationality American
Born (1989-04-21) April 21, 1989 (age 28)
Leningrad, RSFSR, Soviet Union
Residence Clarksville, Maryland, USA
Sport Wheelchair Track and Field
College team University of Illinois Wheelchair Basketball and Wheelchair Track and Field teams

Tatyana McFadden (Russian: Татьяна Макфадден; born April 21, 1989,[1]) is a Russian-born United States Paralympian athlete competing in the category T54. McFadden has won 17 Paralympic medals in multiple Summer Paralympic Games.


McFadden was born in Leningrad, then Soviet Union, on 21 April 1989. She was born with spina bifida, a congenital disorder that paralyzed her from the waist down. After her birth mother abandoned her in an orphanage that was too poor to afford a wheelchair for her, she walked on her hands for the first six years of her life. The doctors told her she was so sick that she had very little time to live. While in the orphanage, she met Deborah McFadden, who was visiting Russia as a commissioner of disabilities for the U.S. Health Department. Deborah and her partner Bridget O'Shaughnessy adopted Tatyana and took her to live in Baltimore.[1][2][3][4][5]

McFadden took up a variety of sports while growing up to strengthen her muscles: first swimming, then gymnastics, wheelchair basketball, sled hockey and track and field. McFadden attended the University of Illinois studying for a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, was a member of the Theta chapter of Phi Sigma Sigma, and was on the University of Illinois Wheelchair Basketball team.[4][6]


McFadden began racing at the age of eight.[3] Competing in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens, Greece, she won a silver medal in the women's 100 metres – T54 event; a bronze medal in the women's 200 metres – T54 event; finished fifth in the women's 400 metres – T54 event; and went out in the first round of the women's 800 metres – T54 event. She also competed at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, China, where she won a silver medal in the women's 200 metres – T54 event; a silver medal in the women's 400 metres – T54 event; a silver medal in the women's 800 metres – T54 event; a bronze medal in the women's 4 x 100 metre relay – T53-54 event; and finished sixth in the women's 100 metres – T54 event.

Until 2009, McFadden specialized in shorter distance sprints. She entered the Chicago Marathon in 2009 as a lark.[7] Unexpectedly, she won, finishing so soon that her mother didn't have her camera ready to record the victory. That was the first of a series of marathon victories for her, including New York City in 2010, Chicago in 2011, London in 2011, and Boston and New York in 2015.[4][8]

McFadden's coach at the University of Illinois is Adam Bleakney, himself a veteran wheelchair racer.[4]

Tatyana and her sister Hannah McFadden competed in the same Paralympic final (100m – T54 in London 2012).[9]

McFadden became the first athlete to win six gold medals at a championships during the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon. She claimed gold in every event from the 100 meters through to the 5,000 meters.[10][11] McFadden also won the Boston, Chicago, London, and New York marathons in 2013.[12][13][14][15] This made her the first person – able-bodied or otherwise – to win the four major marathons in the same year.[14][15][16] She also set a new course record for the Chicago Marathon (1 hour, 42 minutes, 35 seconds).[14]

McFadden began 2014 by returning to the country of her birth, Russia, to compete in the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi. After winning silver medal in the 1 km (0.6 mi) Sprint sitting cross-country skiing event; McFadden claimed she was "fulfilled" after winning the medal in front of all of her family including her biological mother.[17][18] McFadden finished in 5th place in the Women's 12 km (7 mi). Just over a month after Sochi, McFadden returned to wheelchair racing at the London Marathon, where she successfully defended her title in a new course record time.[19][20]

In 2015 McFadden won the NYC marathon, and broke its women's course record by seven minutes and 20 seconds (her time was 1 hour, 43 minutes and four seconds).[8]


McFadden had difficulty competing at high school. Atholton High School would not allow her to race at the same time as able-bodied runners, with officials saying her racing chair created a safety hazard and gave her an unfair advantage (as the best wheelchair racers are noticeably faster than runners over long distances). She competed in separate wheelchair events at high school meets, meaning that she would circle around an otherwise empty track by herself, which embarrassed her. In 2005 Tatyana and Deborah McFadden filed suit against the Howard County Public School System and won the right for her to race at the same time as the runners starting in 2006, though her score would not be counted for her team.[2][3]

Her legal victory led to its own controversies, though. In 2006, one of her Atholton teammates lost her victory in the 1600 meters at the state championships after McFadden was ruled to have been acting as a "pacer" for her, by encouraging her rather than racing on her own. And in 2008, McFadden collided with a rival runner from Bishop McNamara High School after a 200-meter race, inflicting bruises and cuts to the runner's legs and making her miss her conference title meet from the injuries.[21]

McFadden's lawsuit is credited for the eventual passage of the Maryland Fitness and Athletics Equity for Students with Disabilities Act, requiring schools to give students with disabilities the opportunity to compete in interscholastic athletics.[4][21]

She was also a leader of an ultimately unsuccessful effort against a 2012 Russian law to prohibit adoptions of Russian children by American parents.[22][23]


The women's wheelchair race at the 2011 London marathon (left to right: Sandra Graf, Shelly Woods, Tatyana McFadden, Amanda McGrory).
New York City Marathon 2011


  1. ^ a b "Boston wheelchair winner Tatyana McFadden racing for Boston in London Marathon", Associated Press, April 19, 2013. Online at News.com.au. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
  2. ^ a b "After legal wrangle, teen wheelchair racer competes against peers", USA Today, April 19, 2006. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
  3. ^ a b c "The Right To Roll", by Jeffri Chadiha, Sports Illustrated, February 26, 2007. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Tatyana McFadden looking to go far and fast at Paralympics", by Kevin Cowherd, The Baltimore Sun, August 25, 2012. Also online at the Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2013.04.23.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "Last three weeks a marathon for McFadden", by John Jeansonne, November 7, 2010, Newsday. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
  7. ^ McFadden, Tatyana. "About: Tatyana and her Wheelchair hit the Marathons". Tatyana McFadden. Tatyana McFadden. Retrieved 2017-01-19. 
  8. ^ a b "American Tatyana McFadden sets new course record in NYC Marathon wheelchair division". Usatoday.com. Retrieved 2015-11-01. 
  9. ^ "Women's 100m – T54 – Final Rankings". paralympic.org. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  10. ^ a b BBC Sport - IPC Athletics: Sophie Kamlish wins T44 200m bronze in Lyon
  11. ^ a b Tatyana McFadden goes 6 for 6 at IPC world championships | OlympicTalk
  12. ^ a b BBC Sport - Boston marathon winner Tatyana McFadden races in London
  13. ^ a b BBC Sport - London Marathon 2013: Priscah Jeptoo and Tsegaye Kebede win
  14. ^ a b c d e f Tatyana McFadden's Chicago Marathon Win Marks An Incredible, Unparalleled Milestone
  15. ^ a b c d NYC Marathon: Tatyana McFadden completes slam
  16. ^ a b Tatyana McFadden makes history at Chicago Marathon | IPC
  17. ^ Harry, Ed (2014-03-12). "BBC Sport - Sochi Paralympics: Tatyana McFadden 'fulfilled' after silver". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-11-01. 
  18. ^ "BBC Sport - Sochi Paralympics: Tatyana McFadden pipped to sprint gold". Bbc.co.uk. 2014-03-12. Retrieved 2015-11-01. 
  19. ^ "BBC Sport - London Marathon 2014: David Weir loses out to Marcel Hug". Bbc.co.uk. 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2015-11-01. 
  20. ^ "McFadden breaks course record with London Marathon win". Paralympic.org. 2014-04-14. Retrieved 2015-11-01. 
  21. ^ a b "Public schools open sports to athletes with disabilities", by Glenn Graham and Jeff Seidel, The Baltimore Sun, March 25, 2010. Retrieved 2013.04.23.
  22. ^ "Russia’s Move to Block U.S. Adoptions Sets Off a Wave of Worry", by Erik Eckholm, The New York Times, December 22, 2012. Retrieved 2013.04.23.
  23. ^ Pini, Jeff. "Finish Line Scenes - Marathon". Boston.com. Retrieved 2015-11-01. 

External links

Preceded by
France Marie Bochet
Laureus World Sportsperson with a Disability of the Year
Succeeded by
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