Team USA Endurance is captained by three-time Paralympic champion Tatyana McFadden. Having won the ING New York City Marathon wheelchair race in 2010, few are better prepared than McFadden to give expert insight to her teammates on the specific challenges of the race and the route, and how best to overcome them.
McFadden has broken out as one of the world’s top athletes in 2013. As well as winning the 2013 Boston Marathon and 2013 London Marathon, she etched her name in the history books at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France, where she became the first woman to win six world titles in the same year. She claimed titles in the women's T54 100-, 200-, 400-, 800-, 1,500- and 5,000-meters, including gold medals in the 100 and 1,500 on the same day. To conclude her historic performance, she also set a world record time of 1:44.44 in the 800.
By all accounts, McFadden should not be one of the top female athletes in the world. She was born in 1988 in St. Petersburg, Russia, with an underdeveloped spinal cord resulting in paralyzation below the waist and a hole in her spine, a condition known as spina bifida. As an unwanted disabled child, she was sent to an orphanage after her surgery. She grew up in a place so poor they could not buy crayons for the children to color with let alone a wheelchair for her to get around in. Unfazed, she spent the first six years of her life using her arms as legs and walking on her hands as if they were feet.
In 1994, Debbie McFadden, working as the commissioner of disabilities for the U.S. Health Department, visited Tatyana McFadden's orphanage on a business trip. When she met the young girl, she immediately felt a connection with her and decided to adopt her and bring her to the United States. For Tatyana McFadden, the adoption meant freedom, it meant a real family and it meant her first wheelchair. She began taking swimming lessons at the local pool and participating with the Bennet Blazers, a Baltimore, Md., area wheelchair sports organization.
It did not take long for her racing career to take off. In 2004, at the age of 15, she was the youngest member of the U.S. track & field team at the Athens Paralympic Games, the first of her three Paralympic Games. Tatyana McFadden is now training for her first Paralympic Winter Games, hoping to qualify for Sochi 2014 in Nordic skiing.
Off the track, she is pursuing a degree in human development and family studies at the University of Illinois, and works as a national advocate for equal access for people with disabilities.