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Hannah McFadden: Making A Name For Herself

By Doug Williams | June 11, 2013, 2:30 p.m. (ET)

Hannah McFadden
Hannah McFadden, who was the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team, hopes to be selected for the 2013 U.S. world team based on her performances at the 2013 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships, June 14-16, in San Antonio, Texas.

Hannah McFadden had two goals for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

One was to make the finals of the 100 meters. The second was to have fun.

For McFadden, a wheelchair racer who at 16 was the youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field team in London, she accomplished both missions.

Check and check.

Nearly nine months after those Games, which also happened to be her first international competition, the high school junior from Clarksville, Md., looks back on the experience with fond memories.

“Everything and more,” she said. “It was just amazing.”

Tatyana McFadden and Hannah McFadden
Tatyana McFadden (left) and younger sister Hannah McFadden are the first sisters to have raced against each other in the Paralympic Games.

She had the opportunity to compete in a stadium packed with 80,000 people, meet athletes from the United States and around the world and earn a spot in the T54 women’s 100-meter finals against the world’s best — including her older sister, Tatyana. Hannah finished eighth while Tatyana earned a bronze medal in the first Paralympic race featuring sisters.

Deborah McFadden said that her younger daughter came back from London excited and energized to improve. Although she finished eighth in the final, she saw that she belonged with the top competitors in the world.

“It was unbelievable,” Deborah said of Hannah’s experience at the Games. “And coming back, she said, ‘I was only eighth.’ I said, ‘Only eighth? I’m not eighth in anything in the world.’”

With the 2012 Paralympic Games behind her, Hannah is now focused on the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships, June 14-16, at Trinity University in San Antonio and making the U.S. team that will compete in the International Paralympic Committee World Championships in Lyon, France, July 19-28. She also has an eye on the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Paralympic Games when she will be just 20.

In the months since the London Games, she’s taken her training regimen to new levels and fared well against top U.S. and international opponents.

“Since returning from London she’s ramped up her training schedule so she can try to make worlds and the U.S. team, so she’s concentrating on the 100 and 200,” Deborah McFadden said. “She’s also doing the 400 and 800, although the (100) and the (200) are her best right now.”

Recently, she won both the T53/54 100- and 200-meter sprints at the Desert Challenge in Mesa, Ariz., defeating a solid field that included Shirley Reilly, a triple medalist at London (including gold in the marathon).

Hannah then competed at two recent meets in Switzerland, the Swiss Open Nationals in Pratteln and the Daniela Jutzeler Memorial meet in Nottwil. She came away with two second-place finishes in the 100 and 200 in Nottwil. In that meet, she also was seventh in the 400 and sixth in the 800.

This year, Hannah is ranked fifth in the world in the women’s T54 100 meters, with a best time of 17:67. In the 200, she is ranked fourth with a best of 31.27.

The recent competitions in Arizona and Switzerland gave Hannah a chance to see where she is before the U.S. nationals. She’s confident she’s headed in the right direction.

“I think I’m going to do good,” she said. “I think I’ve been making progress all throughout the season. (I’m) where I need to be. I’m looking forward to nationals.”

She knows her best chances to make the team come in the 100 and 200, but she is going to race the 400 “just for fun” — and just in case she can break through. Currently, she’s ranked No. 2 in the nation in her class in the two shortest sprints.

When asked which runners she’ll have to beat, she laughs.

“Tatyana, my sister, would be one of them,” she said.

Tatyana, 24, is ranked No. 1 in both events in the United States and is a 10-time Paralympic medalist, having won three gold, four silver and three bronze medals over the past three Games in London, Beijing and Athens. In London alone, she earned three golds and a bronze. At the upcoming nationals, Tatyana plans to compete in a full slate of events, from the 100 to the 1,500.

Hannah, however, said she doesn’t worry about her opponents. She has no control over what they do. All she can do is try to race her best and see where she finishes.

Tatyana, however, has no doubts that her sister will continue to improve to become one of the best in the world.

“Some of the girls have been training years and years and years, and she’s passing them by,” Tatyana told The (Baltimore) Sun after Hannah had finished third in the 100 in Indianapolis to qualify for the Paralympic Games. “You can just see how much talent she has. And if she sticks with it, from now until she’s my age, she’s going to have significant growth.”

Deborah sees that, too, noting that sometimes Hannah is almost half the age of some of her competitors.

“She’s certainly got wide-open opportunities and, I think, a great future,” she said, noting that women at 25 or 30 years and above have much more upper-body strength through years of training and maturation than does Hannah.

“So the fact she’s able to have pushed this far, against the odds of just development, she’s got high hopes,” she said.

In fact, Deborah said Hannah would love to be able to graduate from Atholton High School in Columbia, Md., a semester early to spend some time training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. She is on the honor roll and plans to take some classes at a nearby community college this fall.

In the interim, she’s continuing to train on her own and with her high school track team.

Hannah was born with a bone deformity and is an above-the-knee amputee (her left leg). She walks with a prosthesis, but essentially has no left hip so she isn’t able to run with it. But she has excelled in both track and basketball as a wheelchair athlete.

“She’s certainly able to show people, ‘Hey, your leg can come on and off and you can run and jump with it, but you can also participate in wheelchair sports,’” said Deborah, who adopted Hannah from Albania and Tatyana from Russia.

Now, after experiencing her first Paralympic Games and seeing improvement this year, Hannah is eager for nationals. It’s just one more test.

“It will be good to see where I’m at,” she said.

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Doug Williams is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.

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Hannah McFadden