Winning 11 Paralympic medals, 16 World medals, and 16 major marathons is no easy feat, especially when you are facing such an adversity like Tatyana McFadden. Tatyana was born with spina bifida, a hole in her spine, and spent the first six years of her life in a Russian orphanage. Being paralyzed from the waist down, having no wheelchair access, and learning to walk on her hands would lead her down a path that she could have never dreamed of… and she’s not done yet.
In 1994 on a work-related trip to Russia, then Commissioner of Disabilities for the U.S. Department of Health, Deborah McFadden, met Tatyana while visiting her orphanage. Deborah immediately felt an unexplainable connection and adopted Tatyana, knowing that she could give her a better life.
Once in the United States, Tatyana enrolled in various sports groups with hopes to build her strength that was lacking after the poor healthcare at the orphanage. This is where she fell in love with wheelchair racing.
At 15, Tatyana made her first appearance in the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games, bringing home two medals. She continued onto the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing adding four medals, and 2012 London Games where she collected four more medals, three of them being gold. At the 2013 World Championships, she made history becoming the first athlete to win six gold medals at the same competition.
Tatyana wanted to challenge herself even more and entered the professional marathon circuit in 2009, winning the Chicago Marathon. In 2013, she was the first man or woman, able-bodied or disabled, to win the Grand Slam (Boston, London, Chicago, and New York Marathons in the same year). In 2014 and 2015, she repeated this remarkable achievement, and is halfway to completing in 2016.
She made her Winter Paralympic debut in the 2014 Sochi Games with less than a year of on-snow training for cross country ski racing. This is where she earned the 11th Paralympic medal of her career, a silver.
Tatyana was the recipient of the Wilma Rudolph Courage award from the Women’s Sports Foundation in 2015.
She graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies. Tatyana loves working as a national advocate for healthy lifestyle through sports and nutrition, mentoring youth, and is a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts.
In 2016, Tatyana published a children’s book based on her life, “Tatyana McFadden, Ya Sama! The Story of my Life”.