By Morgan O’Brien
With a most dynamic background, Team USA Paralympic skier Tatyana McFadden’s story is one of remarkable balance: equal parts winter and summer, old hand and rookie, road and snow, and Russia and the United States.
A veteran of three Paralympic Summer Games (Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012), 2014 marks her first foray into international winter sports competition. While she’s arguably the world’s best road and track racer, she’s new to the slopes. And while she proudly represents the United States, she was born in Russia.
“I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, but my life is in America,” said McFadden, 26, who was named to the U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Team in January. “I’m going … to compete for myself and for my team.”
At 15, McFadden qualified for Athens. She counts three golds among her 10 Paralympics medals. In 2013, McFadden made history when she became the first woman to win what is referred to as the “grand slam,” finishing first in the wheelchair divisions of the Boston, Chicago, London and New York City marathons.
While famous for her ability to get to the finish line first, McFadden remains proud of where she started.
“Having Russian heritage is very important because it’s part of who I am,” said McFadden, who lived in a St. Petersburg orphanage until the age of 6, when she was adopted by her mother, Deborah McFadden. “Being adopted by an American family opened up dreams and possibilities.”
Through the years, she has kept in touch with her birth mother and the director of the orphanage she was adopted from. With the prize money from her marathon wins, McFadden invited many of her family members — both biological and adopted — to Sochi for the Games.
“Family is always going to be family, no matter what. I’m very excited and very honored that they’re going to be there,” said McFadden. “I think they’re going to see something extraordinary between the competitors and the Games. [Sports] brings everyone together.”
With her diverse background and experience, there are few people better positioned to bring people together than Tatyana McFadden.