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October 30, 2015

Tatyana McFadden

New York City, New York

Q. Are you writing a book?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: I am. It's really an exciting project. It's like running a marathon in itself. I wanted to write a children's book for my autobiography. It's a way to talk about my journey and what I've been through in life and talk about what my disability is, and Paralympics, and what marathoning is. It's just a simple way of putting it to where the public eye will understand better.

Q. Are you partnering with an artist for the pictures or doing it all?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: We're finding an artist. I found an artist that I really like, and I'll have to send it out to the publications to look at the final script. But it's been so much fun interviewing the orphanage director and looking at my past. It's really, really amazing.

Q. For kids, can you talk a little bit about explaining your whole life story to kids and how that's different from, say, adults?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: I'll do three books. One is coloring, and one will be like a middle school age and then elementary age book. It's just to talk about we all have journeys in our lives. My journey, I'm a person of many things. I was adopted, and I got involved with sports for the first time and learned what sportsmanship was, and I learned about playing basketball and trying swimming and being able to try so many different sports, and then I found my passion.
Then I had a dream and a goal, and these led me to working hard. And that's what I really want to explain in the book.
For the middle schoolers, I'll explain what Paralympic is and what the Paralympic movement is, and talk about the different racing and talk about the world major marathons and a little more of an explanation for that.

Q. My wife works with orphans in China, and so I know a little bit about that world and the world of Americans that have taken an interest or westerners who have taken an interest there. Can you tell me a little more about your early history, how like you were in Russia, I understand.
TATYANA MCFADDEN: Yes. I was born with Spina Bifida. It was where your spinal column is giving out, and you need surgery immediately after birth. For me, that wasn't the case. It was 21 days later until I received my surgery. I was too sick, and my birth mom could not take care of me financially, and physically. I was just really, really sick. Being born at the time in the fall of communism, there was not that much medical treatment for a person with a disability.

Q. When was your birthday? When were you born?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: April 21, 1989. So I was put into the orphanage, and there I didn't have any medical treatment. I learned how to walk on my hands, using my arms instead of my legs, because my legs were atrophied behind my back. That's how I got around. I scooted and walked around on my hands everywhere for the first six years.
My life changed when a woman happened to walk through the door, and I looked at her. I knew that was my mom. It was just fate almost. It was just that destiny, which was really, really cool.

Q. What's your memory of those years like?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: Well, I went back in 2011 for the Olympic Games in London, which is something I really wanted to do after the London Marathon. I told my mom, we crossed the big ocean. Let's just continue this way. She said, do you realize how far it is? It's just something I really needed to do and something I really wanted to find myself and just learn more about me.
So I met my birth mom there, and I met my family, and I went back to the orphanage, and it was such a fulfilling experience for myself just to kind of see where I grew up.
I've had spotted memories, but going back, I was like, oh, the orphanage is so much smaller. I guess I was so little, everything looked so big. And, of course, time has changed too. So it was very, very different from when I was there as well.

Q. What town is that in?

Q. Is that where you were born?

Q. So you went back in 2011. Have you been back since? Or have you kept in touch?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: Yeah, we've always kept in touch. I competed in Sochi 2004 Paralympic games for winter, the cross country.

Q. Cross country skiing?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: Yes. When I found out the games were going to be in Russia, I wanted to get myself there. It's always been a dream of mine to have both families there at a world competition. So why not the Olympic Games?
It was one of the hardest experiences I've ever had to do was leave something I've known, wheelchair racing and marathoning, and to put that on pause and move out to Colorado and really train full‑time as a cross country skier.
I was living at altitude and training changed, coaching changed. Yeah, it was one of the hardest things I've had to do, just to learn something completely new. I almost didn't make the team because our men's team was really, really strong. The cross country final sprint making the finals, being top five got me a spot on the team.

Q. Just back to the book, when would this come out?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: Around February. It's taking a little while because it's been really a busy year preparing for the Olympic Games next year, with all the marathoning and World Championships in London, and getting ready‑‑ qualifications were at the Chicago Marathon. So it's coming, I promise.

Q. So it's coming February. What's it called?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: It's going to be called, we think, "Ya Sama", which in English means "I can do it."

Q. Is the book in Russian?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: No, the book will be in English. The title is in Russian.

Q. Do you have a publisher for it yet?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: We're searching still.

Q. I'm just kind of curious about the Paralympics. You have a couple sponsors. What do you look for when a company approaches you?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: Because of the Paralympic movement, I think companies are looking for stories, and Paralympians have stories. We all have stories of how we've become what we are today. I think that's why sponsors are really intrigued by Paralympic sport. We all go through journeys, and we can learn from each other. We're really, really relatable to the public.
I'm so honored and so excited to have sponsorships to really help me continue this journey. It's really hard without sponsorship. Wheelchairs‑‑ racing chairs in itself cost $5,000 plus wheels are $2,000 plus the tires. It's really, really expensive.

Q. How many of those do you have?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: My freshman year when I started marathoning in 2009, I went through six tires.

Q. How do you afford that?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: Exactly. So if it wasn't for sponsors, it would be really, really hard to do it financially. I know a lot of the athletes are still working and working and training and working and training. It's really, really tough because it's exhausting. You have to go into work for so many hours and you have to train and put that time in. If you want athletes, if you want U.S. athletes to be on the podium, you need that extra support.

Q. So you have BP. Do you have anybody else?

Q. So how does Coca‑Cola approach you?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: So usually companies like that would approach either an agent or the U.S. Paralympic Committee. They kind of tell what athletes they're looking for and their image of the company. So they give them a list of athletes, and then you go through an interview process.

Q. What kind of questions do they ask you?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: Well, just your story. They want to know your story and how you came to where you are today. I don't know how they do it. I would have a hard time choosing people, but yeah, they do that.

Q. So then how much of a time commitment is it?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: Each company is so different with the time. But what I love about it is getting to meet other Olympic and Paralympic athletes. We're all unified. So we're paralleling the sport. That's what it should be. The sponsors are really paralleling Olympic and Paralympic athletes, which I've never seen done before.
BP was one of the huge examples of that, really paralleling Olympic and Paralympic athletes, treating us both like royalty, and that really says something about the company, and I know that other companies are doing that now.
Coca‑Cola and BMW and everybody following that line. It's amazing. It really is. It brings a new element to the sport. A lot of us train together. The Paralympic and Olympic athletes live in Denver, and we all train together and know each other. So to be put together in one element is amazing. It's what it should be.

Q. You mentioned you got to meet a lot of people through it. Who stood out? I know with BP there's a bunch of people.
TATYANA MCFADDEN: So like Nathan, the swimmer. He's so nice, really genuine person. Lolo Jones, Sanya Richards Ross, and like Nastia Liukin. A lot of athletes. Kerri Walsh. It's amazing.

Q. If someone would have asked you ten years ago you'd be here now, can you even fathom that?
TATYANA MCFADDEN: I still can't believe it now. It's just amazing the opportunities that are coming for Paralympic athletes. I'm so honored they chose me because they can choose anyone. We're all really, really good, and we all have really good stories and huge accomplishments. So I'm really honored they chose me. It's been fun. Hard work but fun.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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