Tatyana McFadden eyes another busy Paralympic schedule in 2021

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Four years ago in Rio, Tatyana McFadden earned Paralympic medals in all six individual races from the 100m through the marathon. She wants another crack at that daunting schedule in Tokyo next year, bidding to significantly add to her 17 career medals.

“My career started as a sprinter,” McFadden, who debuted at the Paralympics in 2004 at age 15, recently told NBC Sports research. “I’m finding it’s a little harder as you get older.”

The 100m, McFadden’s primary event 16 years ago in Athens, is now her toughest. She prefers the 400m and 800m, though McFadden is best known for her marathon prowess.

She swept the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City Marathon wheelchair divisions in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. In Rio, she was shockingly edged out for marathon gold in a photo finish after 98 minutes on the roads.

Also in Rio, McFadden spoke with film producer Greg Nugent. Those conversations helped lead to this week’s Netflix release of “Rising Phoenix,” which intertwines the history of the Paralympics with the stories of nine current athletes.

Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a Jewish doctor who fled Nazi Germany for Great Britain, is considered the founder of the Paralympic movement. He established the Stoke Mandeville Games — at the British hospital of the same name — in 1948 to give rehabbing World War II veterans athletic competition.

“It’s a story that has never been told before,” McFadden said. “People have an idea about what the Paralympics is, but they don’t really know the history behind it.”

McFadden also told her story in the film. She was born in Russia, paralyzed from the waist down due to spina bifida, and adopted from a St. Petersburg orphanage at age 6 by Deborah McFadden, then Commissioner of Disabilities for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and her partner.

“We want to normalize disability through sport and make it bigger, make it better,” said Tatyana McFadden, one of three producers for “Rising Phoenix.” Sixteen percent of the film’s staff had a disability.

While McFadden was one of the world’s dominant athletes in the Rio Paralympic cycle, the last four years brought challenges. In 2017, she had multiple hospital visits and surgeries for blood clots in her legs. Last year, she finished second to Swiss Manuela Schar in all five of her major marathons starts. She didn’t compete at the world championships on the track that took place one week after her last 26.2-miler.

In addition to work on the film, McFadden spent time during the pandemic working on a nutrition book and adding a once-a-week spa day.

She’s gearing up for her next major competition, signed up for the virtual New York City Marathon. The in-person Nov. 1 event was canceled due to the coronavirus, but athletes can log their own marathons (or shorter distances) between Oct. 17-Nov. 1 through New York Road Runners.

McFadden hopes to compete through the 2028 Los Angeles Paralympics and may go for a second Winter Games appearance.

“I’ve always been resilient,” McFadden told Mike Tirico in March after the one-year postponement. “This is just another resilient moment.”

MORE: How the Olympics, Paralympics intersected over time

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U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new uptempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

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GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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