Tatyanna McFadden and Susannah Scaroni celebrate women’s 5000m T54 win at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
TOKYO — Susannah Scaroni has been working for the past 12 years to become a registered dietician. The track and field athlete recently accepted an internship at the University of Urbana-Champaign, posting on Instagram, “I’m very excited to be facing so many amazing experiences.”
Another new experience she got to cross off her bucket list on day 2 of track and field at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 was winning her first Paralympic medal. Saturday’s event marks Scaroni’s third Games and first time atop the podium.
The 30-year-old from Illinois bested the current Games champion, teammate — and six-time Paralympian — Tatyana McFadden, with a new personal best time of 10:52.57 in the women’s 5000m T54. It was also a new Paralympic record, topping McFadden’s time from Rio, which was 11:47.37.
Competing in the marathon in Rio and London and finishing off the podium, a top place finish made Scaroni’s gold medal even sweeter.
“I feel so blessed,” she said after catching her breath. “My strength is going as hard as I can for a long time. That never happens at the Paralympics, and I have no experience doing anything else.”
Scaroni set off across the line Saturday morning, putting her competition in her rearview with seven laps to go — never conceding the lead.
“I looked back, and nobody was there. With seven laps to go, it was a huge risk,” she said, “but I knew my strength, and I took that risk.”
She'll take a gold medal with a Paralympic record on the side. 😏 @KenyanScaroni x #TokyoParalympics pic.twitter.com/mGHBpjHJCn— Team USA (@TeamUSA) August 28, 2021
Meanwhile, McFadden hung back with the chase pack, making her move in the final moments to land the bronze (a new season-best: 11:15.13).
The podium is a familiar place for McFadden, who has an astonishing 17 medals — with 7 of them gold.
“I knew if I hung in the back, watched everything unfold, and protect her up there, then we would be just fine,” McFadden said.
Switzerland’s Manuela Schaer, who is the current world record holder, split the Americans to take the silver with a time of 10:51.17.
Today was not the first time Scaroni had crossed the finish line ahead of her teammate, but “never at the Paralympics,” she admitted. “That is when people bring out everything they have.”
Scaroni — an RD to-be and has worked for the USOPC in the same field — has three more events against McFadden. The two are due to compete in the 800m, 1500m, and the marathon, with McFadden, also trying for a podium spot in the 400m where she is the reigning gold medalist.
McFadden has been dealing with health issues since 2017 but didn’t let that stop her today.
“It’s been a really tough five years for me, since the start of 2017 with my health and being diagnosed with a blood clot disorder. I have good days and bad days,” she said. “I’m just so excited to make Team USA. It’s really hard as it’s so competitive and then to bring home an 18th Paralympic medal.”
Team USA’s Jenna Fesemyer took 30 seconds off her personal best time with her seventh-place finish, crossing the line in 11:17.24.
Another athlete doing their best — despite the oppressive heat in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo — was Beatriz Hatz, competing in the women’s long jump T64.
The 20-year-old from Colorado made her Paralympic debut with a fifth-place finish, landing 5.43 and setting a new area record.
Besting her fifth-place finish in the 2019 world championship in Dubai, where she went 5.11. She will compete again in the 100m and 200m T64, having placed eighth and fifth at the last world championships.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo-2020-Paralympic-Games to view the medal table and results.