In the lead-up to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon this Sunday, Tatyana McFadden is featured in a new Nike ad, and her athleticism is awe-inspiring. 

It takes a lot of strength to power a wheelchair to 17 Paralympic medals (including four golds and two silvers in Rio in 2016) and 24 World Major marathon wins (including Boston and London, one week apart, four times), and McFadden learned toughness from an early age.

Most recently, she finished a disappointing ninth at the Berlin Marathon, using a borrowed wheelchair after her own became damaged in training the day before the race.

RELATED: Canadian wheelchair racer wins Berlin Marathon

Early life in Ukrainian orphanage

McFadden has an incredible story. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1989, she was paralyzed from the waist down due to spina bifida, and spent her early years in an orphanage in Ukraine before being adopted by an American couple at age six. McFadden had no wheelchair in the orphanage, and walked on her hands.

Growing up in her adoptive family, McFadden took to sports at a young age, participating in swimming, gymnastics, wheelchair basketball, sledge hockey, and track and field. 

Intro to activism

As Disability Commissioner under George H.W. Bush, McFadden’s mother, Deborah McFadden, had helped draft the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. It was thanks to the ADA that, years later, Tatyana was able to successfully sue the county school board in Baltimore for the right to race on her high school track alongside able-bodied athletes. 

Success on the world stage

McFadden’s first Paralympics was Athens, in 2004, where she won silver in the T54 100m and bronze in the 200m. Her first World Major Marathon was Chicago in 2009, which she won. She was the first person, able-bodied or disabled, to win four major marathons in the same year. She set a course record in Chicago in 2013. Her biological mother was present in Sochi in 2014 when she won silver in the 1K sprint cross-country skiing event. 

McFadden in Berlin with Eliud Kipchoge. Photo: Instagram

In the Nike ad, McFadden says, “When you’re running, it doesn’t matter–your age, your gender, your sexuality. It doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not. I never saw myself as a person with a disability. I always saw myself as a champion.”

 

 

 

Report error or omission

Related

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *