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October 31, 2014

Tatyana McFadden


Q. And you're only 25 now.テつ So by the time Rio comes around, you'll only be 27.テつ Everything else, at least twice, sometimes three or four times.テつ What keeps you motivated?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ The Paralympics is unique.テつ I just want to push the sport.テつ Push the sport in the marathon world.テつ Push the sport in the athletic world because I have done something that no one else has done, that no wheelchair athlete has done.テつ I want to push the impossibilities to say that things are possible.
And training has changed.テつ Our equipment has changed.テつ And each year wheelchair racers get faster and faster and faster because we get smarter and smarter and smarter.
So it helps to evolve the sport.テつ It make the sport so interesting to watch.テつ I think the public is gaining more of an interest.テつ It's very cool how we draft off each other.テつ It's very cool how we come in as a pack, how we split.テつ It's really exciting to watch.テつ And just be able to be an advocate for sports and to push it.テつ I think that's why pushing myself in the athletic world.
But for cross‑country skiing, it was a special Paralympics for me because I got to go back to Russia.テつ I was born in Russia.テつ I lived in an orphanage for six years, and I always had a dream when I was about 8 years old, I wanted both families to be there at a competition.テつ I didn't know what competition, but I know I wanted my birth family and my adoptive family to be reunited.
So when the Sochi Paralympics rolled around, I thought, well, what a crazy thing I should do.テつ Let's casually pick up cross‑country skiing.テつ So about a year and a half out, I was really talking to the coaches, connecting to everyone, and learning about the sport, what equipment I should use, what poles I should get, what skis I need to get.テつ So that was a whole learning process.
I had a lot of failures.テつ I had three chances to make the team.テつ I missed the two chances.テつ I had one more in my last World Championships, and making it in the final in the cross‑country sprint led me to be on the team because my points ranked up, and it qualified me.
So that was quite a journey and quite a ride, but I knew that, if I could make the Paralympic team, having skiing out and having my family in the stands to the right and seeing everyone there, that was just the most important moment no matter how much of a struggle it was getting there.テつ That's the only moment that really matters for me.

Q.テつ So are you a cross‑country skier now?テつ Will you do it every time the Paralympics come around?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ I sort of liked it.テつ I put away my racing chair last November, and I focused on something else.テつ It really helped build my body in a different way.テつ I lived in altitude until Sochi, and so my lungs became stronger, and my core became stronger.
So training was a great thing to do training off track.テつ Cross‑country skiing really helped give back in building a physique and really build my endurance, a strong mass physique.
I built a lot of mass that, when I got back into wheelchair racing, I couldn't even fit into my chair.テつ So I had to reshape my body a few weeks before the Boston and London Marathon so I could get back in it.

Q.テつ As wheelchair racing evolves, you have an amazing setup at the University of Illinois that has almost like a world center for wheelchair racing.
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ It is.テつ It's a national training center now.

Q.テつ Will it follow running where the next progression will be to be based in altitude like Albuquerque or Park City, things like that?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ We don't know right now, but it just recently became a national training center at University of Illinois, which is absolutely wonderful because the university track team is not part of the NCAA.テつ So we were finding the money ourselves, through like small donations.テつ We were the ones doing that.テつ Now that's all changed.
And if we want athletes to come out, we need to provide a place where they can go and get educated.テつ We have the number one coach in the world.テつテつテつ We have a team of 25.テつ We have all the training facilities.テつ The gym is adaptable for us to‑‑ everything is adaptable for upper body.テつ We take whatever you might use for your legs, reshift it, and use it for upper body.テつ There is nothing like that in the world.
If we want Paralympics to grow, if we want to gain athletes in wheelchair racing, if we want more medals, we need a center and sponsors supporting it.テつ That's a way to get sponsors growing and educated in the U.S. and the world.テつ I'm excited that's being done.

Q.テつ What will you do after the race is done?テつ Win, lose, or draw.テつ Last year you went into Paralympic training.テつ Are you going on holiday?テつ Are you going to have a rest from training?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ I'm actually flying to Japan.テつ I'm going to be doing the Oneida Wheelchair Marathon there, specifically a wheelchair marathon.テつ So that will be my last stop, and I'll be done.テつ It will be Thanksgiving.テつ So I'm going to eat as much as I can.テつ Then it will be Christmas.
It will be really nice to take the time off.テつ I'll finish off my internship at Spalding Rehab Hospital.テつ I work on the pediatric unit.テつ I absolutely love it.テつ It's a great way to give back, and it's a great way to show children that, yes, tragedies happen, but, yes, there are things out there to help you get involved and get back into the community.
Sports changed my life because was very sick and very anemic, and I couldn't even push my wheelchair without saying to my mom, "I need help."テつ Sports allowed me to do that.テつ Doing simple daily life activities changed my life.
Working at the hospital and showing the children that, I think, will help a lot.

Q.テつ Good luck on Sunday.テつ Hope it's not too windy.
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ A little bit windy.テつ I'm the only athlete who thinks that.テつ Ask the guys.

Q.テつ So you're stronger?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ Yeah, I can push through it.テつ The rest of them want the tail so they can fly.

Q.テつ Head down the hills.

Q.テつ I have maybe an offbeat question.テつ Given all that you've accomplished, why are you not a bigger mainstream athlete?テつ Why is that?テつ And I'll use this as maybe a bad example:テつ How does somebody like an Oscar Pistorius, like before all these problems, like make that jump?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ It just takes time.テつ It takes time.テつ It takes education.テつ I have grown as a person and athlete so much since my very first Paralympics in 2004.テつ People didn't really know who I was.テつ They didn't even know what Paralympics was, kind of like the marathons.テつ That has grown so much.
So even like being at the Hotel 24 this weekend, people started to recognize me.テつ "Hey, you're Tatyana McFadden.テつ You won last year."テつ That is really changing, and America is slowly changing in the way they perceive elite wheelchair racers, and that's just about education and growth, and that takes time.
Hopefully, one day it will be blossom, but so far it's been absolutely amazing.

Q.テつ Is this the first time, you would say, that you've come to a big city marathon and gotten recognized like that in a hotel?テつ I'm not talking about on the race course at the start, but just in showing up.
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ In Chicago, really this year.テつ This year has really been a special year, especially coming off the games in Sochi.テつ I got recognized in Chicago.テつ And I got recognized in Boston.テつ And even here.テつ It's so cool.テつ It's absolutely amazing.
I think it's amazing to have fans because fans make it bigger, make you bigger.テつ They are the ones who spread the word and say, "You should really follow this athlete."テつ It makes me feel this definitely has grown.テつ They're the ones that kind of mold you out to the public.

Q.テつ Pre‑controversy, pre‑murder trial and everything, Oscar was such a face for the Paralympic movement.テつ Do you think that the Paralympic movement needs somebody now to carry forward and continue that growth?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ Yeah.テつ And I think a lot of athletes are doing that.テつ A lot of athletes are trying to carry that growth.テつ I'm trying to do that for wheelchair racing, as well as well as University of Illinois, as well as other athletes, other competitors, we are all trying to make our sport grow.
We can all be leaders.テつ And I love it.テつ I love being an advocate for people with disabilities and an advocate for athletics in general, and to help people to get involved and to be that change.テつ A lot of people have heard of Amy Purdy.テつ She has done it, and she did very well.テつ And she really changed the face of the Olympics.テつ So it is being done.

Q.テつ Is it more difficult to do as a wheelchair athlete than, say, an amputee?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ It is a little bit harder.テつ It can be a little bit harder because, when you‑‑ like when you see‑‑ people can ask, how can I relate to that person?テつ Even if they might ask that question, especially if they see someone in a wheelchair.テつ How can I relate to that person?テつ Well, it's much more than just seeing what's outside.テつ Yes, you can look at us and see we're in a wheelchair.テつ But if you look deeper, we all have a story.テつ We all go through struggles.テつ We all have a falling point in our life.テつ We all get back up, and we become champions.
It's really just digging deeper and digging more of perception outside and really looking on the inside that's important because then you become relatable to a lot of people.

Q.テつ How much of that is a media responsibility?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ I think media has grown.テつ I mean, it's absolutely wonderful, and I'm always so thankful for media.テつ Whether it's good or bad, I'll take it on.テつ Media really helps our sport to grow, just like any sport.テつ Like football and basketball, media has grown in that.テつ I hope that it will continue to grow for wheelchair racing.
And that has grown so much.テつ New York does a really great job of showing the wheelchair racers coming in, at the starting line, and through points of the race.テつ And even NBC covered the Sochi Paralympic games, and they're going to do the same thing in Rio.テつ And I just hope those hours keep growing, and it will be on all the time because I think society likes it.
When we had the games in the London Paralympics, they made Olympics and Paralympics parallel, and that really changed how people thought in London, and they were so excited.テつ Every single day that I competed, tickets were sold out.テつ Absolutely sold out.テつ They sold more than, I think, 2 million tickets at the Paralympic games.
It goes to show that people were excited, and they wanted to see the Paralympics.テつ Hopefully, we can bring that over a little bit more.

Q.テつ Having accomplished so much, what keeps you motivated?テつ I mean, you've won all these majors times two.テつ Knock on wood.
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ Maybe, yeah.

Q.テつ Come Sunday.
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ I just love it.テつ Running is such a thrill, and it's always exciting because you don't know the outcome.テつ You can only believe in yourself and your training and just constantly think throughout the race.
I work so hard at it, and I just love it.テつ I love it so much that I just want to keep going.テつ I want to keep going athletically.テつ And to really achieve.

Q.テつ In Sochi, did you have both adopted family and birth family there?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ Yeah, I did.テつ We had both families there, and it was absolutely amazing.テつ It was such a fulfilling experience for me.テつ And it was a dream that I've had ever since I was a young child.

Q.テつ Had you met birth family before?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ I did in 2011.

Q.テつ So that was after you had gone back to New York and came here, and you went back?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ Yeah.テつ So in 2011 I met my birth mom.テつ I saw my orphanage.テつ And that was something that I wanted to do before the Paralympic games in 2012, and it was just the right timing for me.テつ I was finishing up school.テつ I was already overseas competing, and I just wanted to continue that journey on.
It was something that I had to do for myself, and it was just about knowing more myself and knowing where I came from and knowing more about my past.テつ So that is something I needed to do for myself.

Q.テつ What was that experience like?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ Oh, my gosh, it was‑‑ nothing will ever change it.テつ I went in with no expectations because you just don't know.テつ It could be the greatest experience in the world or could be absolutely the worst time of your life.
Luckily for me, it was the best experience of my life.テつ It was such a fulfilling experience.テつ There's no other way to describe it.テつ There was laughter.テつ There was crying.テつ It was just absolutely amazing to see her perspective on things.テつ She had to do the hardest part, as a mother, to give up her child because she knew she couldn't take care of her and really just hope for the best, that she would be going to a great family.テつ That's so hard to do.
So I was so thankful that she did that, to give me this life, to give me all these opportunities.

Q.テつ Is was she familiar with how much you've accomplished?

Q.テつ She was?
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ Yes.テつ So my family has always had a really good contact.テつ When I came back, they were like, oh, we've never, ever had anyone come back before, especially with a person with a disability, and show our orphanage that people with disabilities can make a life for themselves.テつ I mean, it's really rare, especially Russia.
We're so fortunate here.テつ So they were just in awe of how much I've grown and how successful I've become in athletics and in life.

Q.テつ I remember when you said that you had gone back to the orphanage with your medals.
TATYANA McFADDEN:テつ I won New York‑‑ well, the year before that, I won New York, and so I brought my New York City medal, so I gave that to the orphanage as a way to say "thank you."テつ They kept me safe.テつ And they took care of me in their own way.
So it was a way for me to give back and say thank you and something for them to have as a remembrance.

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