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Tatyana McFadden has been a force on the Paralympic scene for a decade and a half, while Daniel Romanchuk’s career is only just beginning.
Over the weekend, both qualified for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 via their finishes at the Chicago Marathon, where the 21-year-old Romanchuk successfully defended his men’s title and McFadden took second place in the women’s race, while finishing tops among the Americans. Because the event doubled as the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials for wheelchair marathon, and because both had previously met the minimum qualifying standard and the national team A standard, they earned their spots on the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Team.
McFadden, 30, is a veteran of five Paralympic Games already, having competed every year since 2004 in the summer as well as taking on the Winter Games in 2014 as a Nordic skier. She’s won an astounding 17 Paralympic medals altogether, including seven golds, but she’s still missing the top prize in what might be her most dominant event: the marathon.
In 2013, McFadden became the first athlete — male or female, able-bodied or disabled — to win all four major marathons in one year when she captured the women’s title in Boston, London, Chicago and New York. Then she did it three times more, in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
In total she’s now won New York five times; Boston five times, most recently in 2018; London four times, all in a row from 2013 through 2016; and Chicago an incredible eight times. That’s 22 wins in the major marathons since making her debut in Chicago 10 years ago.
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Daniel Romanchuk crosses the finish line at the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13, 2019 in Chicago.
Of her seven Paralympic gold medals, however, none came over the grueling 26.2-mile distance.
Two flat tires derailed her efforts in London in 2012, where McFadden finished ninth. Four years later in Rio, McFadden and China’s Lihong Zou crossed the finish line together, both in Paralympic record time, but a photo finish revealed Zou had just edged McFadden for the gold. McFadden went home with the silver medal.
As her second-place finish in Chicago highlights, the Clarksville, Maryland, native is still a force on the women’s scene and will be locked in and ready to go just under a year from now in Tokyo.
Romanchuk competed in the Paralympic Games for the first time in 2016 and took on everything from 100 to 5,000 meters. He didn’t make a final, but that’s bound to change in Tokyo, where his chances of medaling — if not winning — the marathon are outstanding after his performances over the last year.
Romanchuk won his first major marathon at Chicago in 2018, edging defending champion and two-time defending Paralympic marathon champion Marcel Hug of Switzerland. That same year he became the first U.S. man to win the wheelchair division at the New York City Marathon and the youngest male wheelchair athlete ever to win the race as well, again beating Hug in a sprint. Earlier this year, Romanchuk became the youngest winner of the wheelchair race at the Boston Marathon and the first American man to win the race since 1993. He also won the London Marathon in April, which doubled as the world championship.
He now holds the title in all four major marathons, and in September he became the first American man to claim a World Marathon Majors season title.
Moments after his 2019 win in Chicago, he was still in disbelief.
“It’s going take a while to sink in,” Romanchuk said. “I think it’s every athlete’s dream to go to the Paralympic Games and represent their country. It’s a huge honor to be named to the team.”
Next year he’ll look to grab the gold halfway around the world in what will be his first but, likely not his last, Paralympic marathon competition.
Also qualifying for Team USA at the Chicago Marathon was Susannah Scaroni, who finished fourth, and the third among Americans, but qualified because she had hit the minimum qualifying standards while third-place Amanda McGrory had not. In Chicago, Scaroni and McGrory actually finished with the same time.
Tokyo will be Scaroni’s third Paralympic Games, after she finished eighth in the marathon in London and seventh in London.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.