Tatyana McFadden: Record-setting wheelchair racer has sights set on skiing


As a baby, she was an orphan in Russia who used her hands to get around. Then at 15 years old, Tatyana McFadden was the youngest person ever to be a part of the USA Track and Field team at the Athens Paralympic games. Now the University of Illinois student wants to master another sport.

If someone hasn't heard of McFadden, they probably will because not only is she a three-time gold medalist, but she is the first person ever to win four of the marathon majors: London, Boston, Chicago and New York City. Now the wheelchair racer has her sights set on skiing in next years winter games.

Walk by Tatyana McFadden on the street and someone may not know they're walking by a 10-time paralympic medalist and the only person ever to win four of the marathon majors.

She lived in an orphanage the first six years of her life. Everywhere she went, she walked on her hands.

"My legs were atrophied behind my back and so that's the only way I could get around," McFadden said.

Born with spina bifida, the 24 year old defied the odds at birth.

"I was laying in the hospital with my back open for 21 days, had no medical procedures, no medical attention," she said.

She was operated on and then at six years old she was adopted and moved to the states.

"The first time I got involved with sports was just to get healthy, was just to gain independence, strength, to be able to do daily life activities," she explained.

She fell in love with wheelchair racing. She's nicknamed "Beast" in the training room, 49 weeks out of the year and up to 14 hours a week, McFadden practices.

"That's just what it takes to be successful at the highest level, that's the type of volume that you have to build," said Head Coach Adam Bleakney.

But now McFadden prepares for her newest uphill climb, Nordic Skiing in the Sochi winter games.

"In terms of, I'm just talking about fitness and power, I would put Tatyana up against any other female in the world," Bleakney said.

McFadden's just several weeks into training. On Monday, she did 52 minutes of erging.

"For cross country skiing it takes strength and endurance, which I have, it's just technique is what I'm still learning," McFadden said.

But snow and hills don't seem like too big a challenge for a beast.

McFadden and her coach expect her to qualify for next years Olympic games, but she will be training with a special ski coach. This would be her first time at the winter games.

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