"Sports in my passon, paving access for others is my purpose."
That quote greets you when visit the website of Tatyana McFadden, a six-time Paralympic medalist. McFadden will look to add to that medal total at the 2012 Paralympic Games when she competes in five wheelchair events: the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m and marathon (T54; classification for athletes with spinal cord injuries). The marathon will be her first at the Paralympics, an event she qualified for after winning the Chicago Marathon's wheelchair division.
McFadden won four medals at the 2008 Beijing Games, including silver in the 200m, 400m and 800m. Not only will she be headed to London seeking her her first career gold, but she will be doing so alongside her sister. Hannah McFadden, Tatyana's younger sister, is making her debut at the London Games, marking the first time sisters will have raced against each other for Team USA.
Tatyana was born with spina bifida -- "a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close" -- which left her paralyzed below the waist. She was abandoned after birth and lived in a Russian orphanage until the age of six (she was born in St. Petersburg). In 1994, she was adopted by Deborah McFadden, a commissioner of disabilities for the U.S. Health Department, and moved to the United States where she was raised in Clarksville, Maryland.
Looking to help with Tatyana's recovery, the McFaddens had her pursue sports. She quickly took a liking to wheelchair racing and, at just 15, she was the youngest member of the USA track and field team at the 2004 Paralympic Games, where she won a silver and bronze medal. Success continued with wins in both the 200m and 800m at the 2007 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships and then in 2008 at Beijing, where she won four medals in the five events in which she competed.
More recently, McFadden established herself as one of the best wheelchair racers in the world at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships, winning five medals in five events, including four golds.
Tatyana, the U.S. record-holder in the 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1500m, is just as motivated and successful off the track. She was an instrumental figure in helping to pass the Fitness and Equity Students Athletic Bill, the first law in Maryland to end discrimination against athletes with a disability. Like she says, "Sports is my passon, paving access for others is my purpose."