Already a star in track and field, Tatyana McFadden has added Nordic skiing to her repertoire en route to being selected the winner of the 2015 Juan Antonio Samaranch IOC President’s Disabled Athlete Award by the United States Sports Academy. The honor is presented annually to an athlete who displays courage, desire and athletic ability in the face of adversity to achieve the goals set forth in the athlete’s particular area of competition.
McFadden, who previously won the Samaranch Award in 2013, fulfills such criteria in every way. Born with spina bifida, a congenital disorder that paralyzed her from the waist down, McFadden faced an uphill battle from the start. Her path was made no easier by living the first six years of her life in a Russian orphanage without so much as a wheelchair. She managed to keep up with the other children by learning to walk on her hands, a task that ironically enough has served her well in the athletic realm due to the strength she developed in her arms. Eventually, McFadden was adopted by an American, Ms. Deborah McFadden, who happened to be the Commissioner of Disabilities for the U.S. Department of Health, and settled in Clarksville, Md.
To aid with the transition and improve her health, McFadden was enrolled in many sports programs, which truly sparked her blossoming as an athlete and person. In addition to her prowess on the track, her efforts with a lawsuit are credited for the eventual passage of the Maryland Fitness and Athletics Equity for Students with Disabilities Act, which is now a federal mandate. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Illinois and holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the same. She has competed for the university’s wheelchair basketball and wheelchair track and field teams.
But it is Paralympic experience and marathon dominance that pops out when thinking of McFadden. Competing for the U.S., she has won 10 medals in Summer Games dating back to 2004, and she tried her strong hands in Nordic skiing at the Sochi Winter Games. She won silver in the 1-kilometer sprint competition at the most recent ones after winning the same event at the U.S. Championships. McFadden holds 15 World Championship titles and is currently looking to defend her Grand Slam World Marathon title for a second consecutive year by winning all four marathons in Boston, Chicago, London and New York City. She’s the only athlete to win all four marathons in one year. She also captured the London and Chicago crowns in 2012, New York in 2010 and Chicago in 2009. No one has ever one that title previously.
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, regionally accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy visit www.ussa.edu.