In the first three days of the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tatyana McFadden, a seasoned wheelchair racer with 11 Paralympic medals to her name coming into the Games, took silver and gold in her first two races.
McFadden, 27, of Clarksville, Md., has competed in four Summer Paralympics and a Winter Paralympics in 2014 in Russia — her birthplace. She was born with spina bifida and adopted around age 6, then moved to Maryland, where she developed strength and discovered her athleticism in swimming, gymnastics, wheelchair basketball, sled hockey, and track and field. Sit-skiing came later while she was studying at the University of Illinois, and shortly after taking up the sport, McFadden earned silver in the 2014 Paralympics sprint in Sochi.
This past Friday, Sept. 9, on the opening day of the Rio Paralympics, McFadden captured the first medal of the Games for U.S. women’s track and field. The world-record holder in the women’s 100 T54 event, McFadden placed second, 0.13 seconds behind the defending Paralympic and world champion, Wenjun Liu of China, who won in 16.0.
McFadden’s younger sister, 20-year-old Hannah McFadden, placed fourth (+0.34) while a third American, Cheri Becerra-Madsen, coming off a 16-year Paralympic hiatus, was fifth (+0.4). According to a U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) press release, McFadden entered Rio aiming for seven gold medals to add to her collection of three from London 2012.
She would have to wait for her first one.
“To get the first medal for the U.S. women is amazing,” McFadden said in a USOC press release on Friday. “This is one of my hardest events. I’ve really had a rollercoaster ride with the 100 meters. In Beijing, I got sixth; In London, I got third and today I got silver. I’m really quite happy and am just looking forward to my next event.”
On Sunday, Sept. 11, she defended her Paralympic title in the women’s 400 T54, winning in 53.30 seconds. Becerra-Madsen joined her on the podium in second (+1.2).
Fifteen years after the Sept. 11 tragedies, McFadden dedicated her win to the victims, families and first responders of that day.
“Today I won with my heart,” she told the USOC. “I ran for America. It’s September 11 so I ran for the folks back at home; thoughts and prayers for those affected. I honor my country today with a gold medal.”
Several summer/winter cross-over Paralympians are competing in these Games. Oksana Masters, one of two U.S. Paralympians in their third Paralympic sport, is competing in road cycling, which begins on Wednesday.