Bona fides: McFadden won six medals in wheelchair-racing events at the Rio Paralympics. Her trophy case boasts a total of 17 Paralympic medals and 15 World ParaAthletics medals, plus she’s won 16 major marathons.
Backstory: Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, with spina bifida, McFadden, 27, spent her first six years in an orphanage without a wheelchair. “I wanted to be just like all the other kids and go everywhere they were going,” she says. “So I learned how to walk on my hands and to scoot on the ground.” She was adopted at age 6 by an American woman in Maryland.
Sweetest victory: In 2011, she tracked down her birth parents in Russia. Soon after, she learned that the 2014 Winter Olympics would be held there, in Sochi. “I wanted my birth family and my [adoptive] family to [see me compete],” McFadden says. Minor detail: She didn’t compete in any winter sports. But within a year, she’d transformed herself into a cross-country ski racer and went on to win silver.
Role model: “When you think of tennis, you think Serena Williams—I hope to do the same for wheelchair racing.”
Follow her: tatyanamcfadden.com.