LONDON – American Paralympic track star Tatyana McFadden (Clarksville, Md.) had to wait five days before her first event of the Games, but when the time for her race finally came she showed it was well worth the wait, winning gold in the 400M (T54) with a personal best time of 52.97.
The win marks McFadden’s first Paralympic gold medal and the seventh of the three-time Paralympian’s career (one gold, four silver, two bronze from Athens and Beijing).
For McFadden, winning gold tonight is one of the more significant highlights of her career thus far.
“This is definitely one of my highlight moments….it’s definitely a moment I won’t forget,” said the smiling gold medalist.
McFadden put together a complete race in her eyes, which for her meant not singling out any one portion of the race, but rather focusing on all three phases.
“I knew I had to focus on my start, focus on my transition and focus on my finish and just take it all in,” said McFadden.
McFadden was dominant right from the start. After coming out fast, she made the turn look easy as she breezed past the competition. By the second turn the nearest competitor was nearly 10 meters away, which is how it would remain until the final straight-away where McFadden took it into another gear to leave no doubt in the race.
“I knew this was going to be a tough race and that it would be an all-out sprint,” said McFadden. “When I was going down the stretch I was telling myself to go, to push with my heart and just fly.”
And fly she did. So much in fact that second place finisher Hongjiao Dong of China, finished nearly three seconds behind McFadden with a time of 55.43.
Although McFadden had to wait five days before competing in these Games, her schedule now becomes significantly more grueling as she will compete in at least one event a day for the remainder of the Games.
This does not faze McFadden who is going to relax as much as possible, which for her includes resting up and focusing on the task at hand.
“I need to get as much rest as possible and as much sleep as possible because I know when I start I will not get any sleep,” stated McFadden. “…so that has been my main focus, trying to get that all in and focusing on the races.”
McFadden’s next event is the 800m (T54) which begins Tuesday morning.
McFadden was not the only U.S. team member to win their race in convincing fashion tonight.
Also collecting gold for the Americans tonight was 18-year-old Raymond Martin (Jersey City, N.J.) who, like McFadden, smashed the competition in the 400m (T52) final, with a time of 58.54. He was more than two seconds faster than Japan’s Tomoya Ito who finished second with a time of 1:00.80.
Martin’s win is his second in as many days after collecting gold in the 100m (T52) final Sunday.
Martin was quick out of the gate; something he knew would be key in his win.
“I came out of the blocks with a good start and kept a good pace for the first 200,” said the first-time Paralympian.
After the first turn Martin wasted no time picking off his opponents as he pulled away from the pack and built a sizable lead.
Although Ito gave a slight challenge just after the 200m mark, it was short lived as Martin quickly closed the race out for good on the final straight away.
“I felt really good coming into the turn and so I just booked it from there,” said Martin.
Martin continues to impress in these Paralympic Games and hopes to build on the success of his first two days in his final two events, the 800m (T52) which is his next event and the 200m (T52), an event he holds the world record in.
Because he holds the world record, Martin feels as though the 200m will be his next best chance to medal.
“I am very confident going into that race,” said Martin. “I spend the end of my training sessions doing 200s so I feel good at that distance right now.”
Also competing in the 400m (T52) final tonight were Martin’s U.S. teammates, Josh Roberts (Morris, Ala.) and Paul Nitz (Edina, Minn.). Roberts barely missed the medal stand, finishing fourth with a time of 1:05.76 while Nitz placed seventh, finishing in 1:15.15.
In the men’s 100m (T53) final earlier in the evening, Americans Brian Siemann (Millstone, N.J.) and Zach Abbott (Portland, Ore.) finished in sixth and eighth place, respectively.
Sprinter Elexis Gillette (Raliegh, N.C.) competed in the final event of the night, the prelims of the men’s 200m (T11). Competing in heat four, he finished third with a time of 25.42 and will not advance to Tuesday's final. David Brown (St. Louis, Mo.) also did not qualify for the final.