Tatyana McFadden’s story is an extraordinary one. She was born with a congenital disorder that paralyzed her from the waist down. Her birth mother abandoned her in an orphanage in Leningrad, then Soviet Union, that was too poor to afford a wheelchair for her, so she walked on her hands for the first six years of her life. The doctors told her she was so sick that she had very little time to live. While in the orphanage, she met Deborah McFadden, who was visiting Russia as a commissioner of disabilities for the U.S. Health Department. Deborah, a single mother, adopted Tatyana and took her to live in Baltimore.
Tatyana took up a variety of sports while growing up to strengthen her muscles: first swimming, then gymnastics, wheelchair basketball, sled hockey and track and field. The rest, as they say, is history.
Yesterday, she captured the second-ever marathon Grand Slam, winning the New York City Marathon on top of her titles in Boston, London and Chicago earlier this year.
“I cannot believe that I have won eight marathons in a row,” McFadden said after the race. “This is absolutely incredible.”
Amazingly, the first and only athlete, able-bodied or wheelchair, to win four major marathons in one year was also McFadden, who won Boston, London, Chicago and New York City last year.
The last two years have seen McFadden win three gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympics (giving her ten career Paralympic medals), six gold medals at the 2013 IPC World Track and Field Championships, one cross-country skiing silver medal at the Sochi 2014 Paralympics and those eight major marathon titles.
She was deservedly nominated for the 2014 Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability award and looks to be a strong contender for another nomination for the 2015 Laureus World Sports Awards in Shanghai.
“That’s an absolute testament to the athlete that Tatyana is,” said Kurt Fearnley, the winner of the men’s wheelchair NYC Marathon by one second. “There is no more dominant female athlete in the sport at this moment.”