By Karen Price | March 14, 2018, 1:45 p.m. (ET)

Tatyana McFadden speaks at the 2017 Team USA Awards on Nov. 29, 2017 in Westwood, Calif.

 

If you can’t join them, cheer for them.

Cheering for Team USA is something that Paralympic track and field superstar Tatyana McFadden has been doing a lot of on social media ever since the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 opened on Friday. The multi-sport athlete has competed in five Games herself, including the Winter Games in Sochi in 2014, but health complications last year prevented her from training for 2018.

She’s been busy tweeting out messages of encouragement and excitement, and sharing schedules and information on how to watch with her 12,000-plus followers.

“Well, first of all, I love the Olympics and Paralympics,” said McFadden, whose long list of accomplishments includes 17 Paralympic medals. “I’ve been competing ever since I was 14, and it’s just been amazing to watch the sport grow in general. Having social media now you can find amazing athletes and cheer on your favorites and you’re able to see what’s really going on.”

That wasn’t the case when McFadden became the youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team competing in Athens in 2004 at the age of 15. There was no Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram, no live streaming of events online. Traditional media didn’t cover the Paralympic Games, either. Rarely would you read of a Paralympic event in a newspaper or see anything broadcast on television. 

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McFadden has embraced every opportunity to turn people on to what’s happening in PyeongChang now that that has changed.

“It’s so cool to show people about the sport and to have them see it,” she said. “Once they see it they have a different mindset of what Paralympics is.”

She congratulated the U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Team after the first day of competition:

Soon after, she tweeted a video message she and her sister Hannah recorded wishing Team USA and Team Toyota athletes good luck.

As the Paralympics have continued she’s posted the medal table and ongoing information about what events to watch, when and how. She has also shown how easy it is to watch from anywhere on any device.

McFadden also loves how other athletes have been tweeting and posting about the Paralympics. Olympic ice dancing champion Charlie White tweeted good luck wishes to Oksana Masters and his longtime skating partner Meryl Davis has congratulated snowboarder Amy Purdy. Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin has retweeted posts about the Paralympics. Purdy tweeted that two-time Olympic slopestyle gold medalist Jamie Anderson told her, “Do your best and be blessed for the rest,” and that’s that went through her mind at the starting gates before winning silver in snowboardcross. Major sponsors such as Toyota and broadcast partner NBC have had a tremendous social media presence promoting the Paralympics. 

“It’s about paralleling between athletes,” she said. “We’re not any different. We’re all Olympic and Paralympic athletes. We’re all elite athletes and we do the same training and make the same sacrifices and put in all the hard work to get to where we are. I think that it’s been awesome to see because when I started out there wasn’t that parallel. A lot of athletes didn’t know what the Paralympics were, so it’s very cool.”

Because McFadden is known for her marathons as well as her feats in both the Summer and Winter Games, she hopes her posts can reach fans worldwide who may not have much previous exposure to the Paralympics. She said she’s already gotten feedback from marathon fans who have checked out the Winter Games for the first time and are impressed by what they’ve seen.

McFadden made the difficult decision not to train for this year’s Paralympics last year while she was suffering from blood clots. As tough as it was, she said, her health is most important.

She’s now preparing to compete in the Boston Marathon next month and has a goal of completing six marathons this year, something she’s never done.

McFadden said she’d love to one day attend the Paralympics as a spectator after she’s done competing, but hopes that’s a long way off. 

“Of course I will be there as a spectator regardless of my age because I love the Olympics and Paralympics, and I love watching the stories of how people get there,” she said. “Everyone has a really cool story of how they got there, and their hard work and perseverance.”

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.