With her Paralympic medal haul? Her lawsuit against US school boards to allow competition between disabled and regular student athletes? Her brief winter Olympic career? Her philanthropic work in schools? Her three mothers—one birth, two adoptive?
All of these form part of the narrative, of course, of a rich life. McFadden is one of those people or athletes, whose ebullience is impossible to contain. Even on the telephone, it pours out, an enthusiasm and determination several lead weights would struggle to crush.
So we take our questions back to the start, which is, in its quiet way, and shrouded by age and memory, the most extraordinary part of McFadden’s life.
In the spring of 1989, with the iron curtain about to fall, McFadden was born to Nina Polevikova, a Russian. A child with spina bifida, given up for adoption and, after spinal surgery, given a home in Orphanage Number 13 in Saint Petersburg. However, that surgery should be done immediately but McFadden had to wait 21 days.
McFadden met her birth mother Nina for the first time since her babyhood in 2011, on a trip to Russia in the build-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games. No media were invited; McFadden gave her medal from the New York marathon that year to the orphanage director and a gold medal from the world championships to Nina.
But here the extraordinary everyday of her life risks confusing the narrative. There is, of course, a yawning gap between 1989 and 2011 in which McFadden went from the orphanage to a house in Maryland, to the Athens Olympics, to Beijing.
Olympian Laurie Hernandez takes a break from her hectic schedule to talk to In Touch about joining Dancing With the Stars season 23, revealing it has been a “dream come true” and DWTS was even one of her motivations for participating in the Olympics!
“The mirror-ball is right up there with a gold medal,” insists the 5-foot New Jersey native, dubbed “The Human Emoji” thanks to her big eyes and super-expressive face.
“I used to leave practice and go home and watch this show, so being here is a dream come true,” she says. “One of my motivations to go to the Olympics was, OK, maybe I can do DWTS afterward!”
Laurie adds that practicing for DWTS is a totally different ball game then preparing for the Olympics.
“Another thing is that with dancing I have a partner and I have to stay mindful that he’s a part of me, and that we’re doing this together.”
Laurie explains how she thinks she can teach partner Val Chmerkovskiy a thing or two. “I’m going to teach Val a back handspring before the season is over,” she says.
For more from Laurie, including where she keeps her coveted Olympic medals, pick up the latest issue of In Touch, on newsstands now!
McFadden, 27, who trains in Champaign, Ill., returned to the United States after capping her Paralympic Games with a silver medal in the marathon Sunday, crossing the line in a photo finish second to China’s Lihong Zou. The two finished in 1 hour, 38 minutes, 44 seconds, setting a Paralympic record.
The American won a medal in each of her six individual races, which started at 100 meters and went up to the marathon. Her four golds and two silvers tied her with swimmer Jessica Long for the most medals won by a U.S. athlete in Rio.
Tuesday she spent time with the New York Road Runners Mighty Milers at PS 333, Manhattan School for Children. The program teaches youth with a physical disability the fundamentals of wheelchair racing.
“It’s so important in the community for everyone to be involved; it doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, whether you have a disability or not,” McFadden said. “Everyone should have that right to participate in sport.”
Ibrahim Al Hussein and Tatyana McFadden have been revealed as the recipients of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The pair were selected as the athletes who best exemplify the spirit of the Paralympic Games and the Paralympic values.
The Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award started in 1988 Seoul Paralympic Games and has been presented at every Paralympic Games since then. The winners will each receive a pure gold medal, weighing 75 grams, at the Closing Ceremony of Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
At Rio 2016, 17 participating countries nominated 21 athletes for the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award. The International Paralympic Committee then chose a shortlist of six athletes: Jose Luis Casas (Peru), Ibrahim Al Hussein (Independent, Syria), Ammar Ali (Iraq), Tatyana McFadden (USA), Zulfiya Gabidullina (Kazakhstan), and Veronica Silva Hipolito (Brazil).
The final two winners were chosen on Thursday 15 September by an independent panel of judges comprising of IPC Governing Board members.
The mission of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award is to enhance the will of people with impairments to overcome their adversities through the pursuit of excellence in sports and through the Paralympic Games. These two winners have shown exceptional qualities that represent this award.
There will be a press conference at the Aquatic Center on 17 September 2016.
Congratulations to Ibrahim Al Hussein and Tatyana McFadden.