Tatyana McFadden is an inspiration to athletes around the world. In her career as a marathoner, she has had multiple first-place wins in Chicago, New York, Boston and London. In 2013 and 2014, she won all four World Marathon Majors in one year.
Yet she has never run a step.
McFadden races in a wheelchair. No, I take that back; she doesn't just race in a wheelchair, she dominates every race she enters. And now the push-rim racer is turning her attention to the next generation, penning children's stories that she hopes will inspire kids to believe in themselves regardless of the obstacles.
When it comes to rough starts in life, McFadden may have cornered the market. She was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the development of the spine. She spent the first six years of her life in an orphanage in Russia with nothing — not even a wheelchair to help her get around. According to her website, McFadden figured out early on that since she was paralyzed from the waist down and had no other means of getting around, she would need to rely on her arms and shoulders if she wanted to keep up with the other kids. Little did she know that this early strength training would lay the groundwork for her to become one of the world's elite athletes.
McFadden's story took a happy turn in 1994 when she was adopted by Deborah McFadden, then commissioner of disabilities for the U.S. Department of Health, who was visiting orphanages on a routine business trip to Russia. Deborah brought Tatyana back to the United States and gave her love, a family, and a wheelchair — all of which changed her life forever.
Fast-forward to 2015, and McFadden has won eleven Olympic medals, including three gold. She has won 24 marathons and broken three world records. When she isn’t racing or studying to earn her graduate degree in education, McFadden works as a national advocate for equal access for people with disabilities, is a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts, is on the board of directors of Spina Bifida of Illinois and speaks to children and adults about healthy living.
McFadden credits sports with helping to improve — and even save — her life. She realizes that her story puts her in the unique position to be able to reach all kids who have had a rough start in life — especially those with disabilities — with her message to dream big and never give up.
McFadden recently launched a Kickstarter campaign with the hopes of earning enough starter capital to publish a series of children's books. The three books — one for kids 8-12, one for kids 5-8 and an activity book kids 5-8 are titled "Ya Sama! The Story of Tatyana McFadden." From her Kickstarter page:
"Challenged with a task or feat that seemed to many people around me to be beyond my capabilities, I would always say, 'Ya Sama!' which in Russian loosely translates to, 'I can do it!' I believed that I was unstoppable and could do anything and go anyplace."
With an attitude like that, it's pretty clear that there isn't a goal in sight that Tatyana McFadden can't conquer. To help her reach her latest goal to become a children's author, check out her Kickstarter campaign.
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