Tatyana McFadden

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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One year to Tokyo: Ten U.S. Paralympic hopefuls to watch

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Ten U.S. Paralympic hopefuls to watch, one year out from the Tokyo Games Opening Ceremony …

Chuck Aoki (Wheelchair Rugby)
The U.S.’ top scorer, but still looking for a Paralympic title after bronze and silver medals in 2012 and 2016. Aoki’s father’s family is from Japan, immigrating to the U.S. in the early 1900s. His great-grandparents and grandparents were placed in World War II internment camps. Aoki switched from wheelchair basketball to rugby after seeing the 2005 Oscar-nominated documentary “Murderball.” He has been on the national team since 2009.

David Brown (Track and Field)
In six years with guide runner Jerome Avery, Brown won the Rio Paralympic 100m title, two world 100m titles and became the first totally blind athlete to break 11 seconds in the sprint. The pandemic forced the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., to close in March, leading to the longest stretch (months) that Brown and Avery have been apart since they partnered up in 2014.

Jessica Long (Swimming)
The second-most decorated U.S. Paralympian in history with 23 medals. While Long can’t catch Trischa Zorn‘s record 55 medals in Tokyo, she can improve on what she called a “disappointing” performance in Rio, where she still earned six medals. Long, who made her Paralympic debut in 2004 at age 12, then earned eight world titles in 2017 and six more medals at 2019 Worlds.

Oksana Masters (Cycling)
Already a Paralympic rowing and Nordic skiing medalist, Masters bids for a second Games to add a road cycling medal to her haul. In Rio, she placed fourth in the road race and fifth in the time trial. At her last Paralympics in PyeongChang, Masters came back from a fractured right elbow to earn five medals, including two golds.

Tatyana McFadden (Track and Field)
Earned medals in all six individual races from 100m through the marathon in Rio and eyes the same schedule in Tokyo. McFadden, a 17-time medalist between the Summer and Winter Games, also swept the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City Marathon wheelchair divisions in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Last year, Swiss Manuela Schar relegated McFadden to runner-up in all five of McFadden’s major marathon starts, and McFadden did not compete at the world championships on the track, which took place one week after the New York City Marathon.

Evan Medell (Taekwondo)
The U.S. has a medal contender in taekwondo, which debuted as an Olympic medal sport in 2000 and is on the Paralympic program for the first time in Tokyo. Medell, a 23-year-old licensed diesel mechanic, is ranked No. 1 in the world in the K44 +75kg division after 2019 titles at the European and Parapan American Championships.

Becca Meyers (Swimming)
Earned three golds and one silver in individual events at the Rio Games, plus broke three world records. Meyers followed that with medals across three different strokes (plus the individual medley) between the 2017 and 2019 World Championships. She has trained at both the North Baltimore Aquatic Club and the Nation’s Capital Swim Club, which produced Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, respectively.

Allysa Seely (Triathlon)
Led a U.S. medals sweep in her classification in triathlon’s Paralympic debut in Rio. Followed with world championships medals in 2017 (silver), 2018 (gold in an undefeated season) and 2019 (silver). The U.S. team could also include Melissa Stockwell, the first female soldier to lose a limb in the Iraq War, who took bronze in Rio. And Brad Snyder, a triple gold medalist in swimming in Rio who then took up triathlon.

Steve Serio (Wheelchair Basketball)
Three-time Paralympian co-captained the U.S. men to their first gold in 28 years in Rio. He neared triple-doubles in the quarterfinals, semifinals and the final win over Spain. Serio made the tournament all-star team at 2018 Worlds, where the U.S. fell to Great Britain in the gold-medal game.

Ben Thompson (Archery)
Upset the world No. 1 compound archer to win the world title in 2019. Ended the season with a No. 1 world ranking and Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year from the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee. Thompson competed in recent years with sister-in-law Megan‘s name on his arrow wraps. Megan fought breast cancer for years before her death in November as he was en route to the Team USA Awards.

Note: Portions of this post were previously published on Feb. 24, six months out from the original Paralympic Opening Ceremony before the postponement to 2021.

MORE: How the Olympics, Paralympics intersected over time

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Memorable Paralympic moments from 2010s decade

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NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s this week. Here are 13 Paralympic moments that defined the decade …

Vancouver 2010: Lauren Woolstencroft sweeps standing Alpine golds
The Alberta native delighted the home crowd by winning all five standing races (by at least four seconds). Woolstencroft, later featured in a Super Bowl commercial, actually helped prepare the Vancouver Winter Games venues as an electrical engineer. She retired shortly after those Paralympics, her third.

London 2012: Jessica Long wins 5 swimming golds, 8 medals
Long, aiming for her fifth Paralympics next year, owns 23 Paralympic medals. Only retired swimmer Trischa Zorn has more among U.S. Paralympians with 55, most by any Paralympian ever. Long debuted at the Paralympics at age 12 in 2004 (winning three events), but her greatest success came at London 2012. She matched Michael Phelps‘ feat of eight medals at a single Games, including individual titles in freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly and individual medley.

London 2012: Brad Snyder’s gold on anniversary of battlefield injury
Snyder earned five swimming gold medals this decade, but we’ll focus on his second one, in the 400m freestyle on Sept. 7, 2012. It came one year to the day after the U.S. Navy officer stepped on an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, resulting in complete blindness. “It’s not a poor anniversary,” Snyder said at the London Games, according to TeamUSA.org. “I’m really looking forward to celebrating how far myself and my family have been able to come over the past year.”

London 2012: Esther Vergeer wins 4th gold, 470th straight match
The Dutch wheelchair tennis legend made the Paralympics her last competition, bowing out at the London Games. She finished her career with 470 straight match wins dating to 2003 and 21 Grand Slam singles titles. Vergeer would say that her career highlight also came at the Paralympics, when she rallied from match point down in the Beijing 2008 final.

London 2012: Alex Zanardi, former CART champ, sweeps cycling events
Those who saw will never forget Zanardi’s open-wheel racing accident in 2001, when the Italian lost both of his legs and was read his last rites. Zanardi said he went 50 minutes with less than one liter of blood, and his heart stopped beating seven times. He lived. He turned to paracyling. He became a champion again, sweeping the road race and time trial in his Paralympic debut.

Sochi 2014: U.S. sweeps snowboarding’s Paralympic debut
Americans grew to dominate snowboarding at the Olympics. In the Paralympics, the U.S. began gobbling medals from the very start. Evan Strong, Michael Shea and Keith Gabel swept the medals in the sport’s debut, marking the first time the U.S. owned the podium in any Paralympic men’s event.

Sochi 2014: Ukraine participates amid Crimea situation
The night before the Opening Ceremony, the Ukrainian Paralympic team met for two hours to determine whether it would boycott the Games. Russian troops had moved into Crimea. “If we went back home, all we could do was lie on the sofa and watch the news about what was going on in the Crimea,” Ukraine Paralympic Committee President Valeriy Sushkevych said, according to the International Paralympic Committee. “Yet in Sochi, by taking part we could fight for peace for Ukraine on Russian territory.” Ukraine, which in a symbolic protest sent one athlete to the Opening Ceremony, finished second in total medals.

Rio 2016: U.S. sweeps triathlon’s Paralympic debut
Americans won the first two Paralympic women’s triathlon titles, including a medals sweep in one division with Allysa Seely, Hailey Danisewicz and Melissa Stockwell. For Stockwell, the event taking place on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks brought added meaning. Stockwell lost her leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004, becoming the first female U.S. soldier to lose a limb in active combat. She then became the first Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran to make Team USA. “When it got really tough out there I thought of those that gave the ultimate sacrifice and didn’t make it back,” she said, according to The Associated Press. “They pushed me to the finish — just wanting to give my thanks to them.”

Rio 2016: Tatyana McFadden sweeps 400m through 5000m
McFadden, perhaps the most well known U.S. Paralympian of the decade, hit her peak in the Rio Paralympic cycle. She won all six races between 100m and 5000m at the 2013 World Championships. She won a silver medal in cross-country skiing at the Sochi Winter Games. She swept the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City Marathon wheelchair races in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Then in Rio, McFadden nearly swept the board again: gold in the 400m through 5000m, adding silvers in the 100m and marathon.

Rio 2016: Marieke Vervoort competes after signing euthanasia papers
Vervoort earned four Paralympic track medals between 2012 and 2016, all after signing euthanasia papers so she could decide when to end her life. The Belgian competed in wheelchair racing with an incurable, degenerative spinal disease that limited her to 10 minutes of sleep on some nights. “You can go in peace when the time comes,” she told NBC Sports’ Lewis Johnson in Rio. “I don’t want to live like a plant that I need day-in, day-out [help].” Vervoort ended her life on Oct. 22.

Rio 2016: Iran wins men’s volleyball title with 8-foot player
Few athletes stood out at the Games like Morteza Mehrzad, an 8-foot, 1-inch player on Iran’s sitting volleyball team that struck gold. “I am not the whole team, I am only taller than the others,” Mehrzad said, according to the IPC, disliking the attention.The tallest person in his country, noticed by an Iran sitting volleyball coach while appearing on TV, led the team in scoring in the gold-medal match.

PyeongChang 2018: Oksana Masters powers through pain
A rower and a cyclist in the Summer Games, Masters made her mark most of all in cross-country skiing. In PyeongChang, she overcame a dislocated right elbow a week before the Games — and reinjuring it in a fall during the Paralympics — to win her first two gold medals at her fourth Games overall.

PyeongChang 2018: Declan Farmer’s golden goal
The decade started with an Olympic golden goal and ended with a Paralympic golden goal. Farmer, then a 20-year-old Princeton student, tied the Paralympic final with Canada with 37.8 seconds left, then potted the winner 3:30 into overtime. He led the U.S. to a third straight Paralympic hockey title, one year after 2014 Paralympic coach Jeff Sauer died of pancreatic cancer.

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