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American wheelchair racing legend Tatyana McFadden said she was “on cloud nine” after winning her 18th Paralympic medal on Saturday, four years after blood clots nearly ended her career.
McFadden won bronze in the women’s 5,000m T54 to extend her streak of podiums in every Paralympic race she has competed since 2008.
But she said just competing in Tokyo was a victory in itself, having been diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder in 2017 from which it took almost two years to recover.
“I am in seventh heaven,” said the 32-year-old woman, born in Russia and raised in an orphanage until adopted at the age of six.
“I was in a very dark situation because it took me 20 months to recover, and everyone was improving in those 20 months. I kept fighting, I kept believing in me and I continued to train really hard. “
McFadden said she couldn’t even sit in her wheelchair for more than 30 minutes after being diagnosed with the disease, but she gradually regained her strength and returned to competing.
“It’s really amazing that I’m here, that I’m on the podium,” she said, after finishing the race behind her gold-winning teammate Susannah Scaroni.
McFadden is set to take part in four more events in Tokyo and may add the relay to his schedule as well.
More medals would solidify her position as one of the greatest Paralympians of all time, and she is determined to use her status to raise awareness of disability.
McFadden praised the US team’s decision to award Paralympic medalists for the first time the same prize money as Olympians in Tokyo.
“These Games are monumental for us,” she said.
“If the United States can do it, the world can follow. I want us to be the leader.”
– ‘Transforming the world’ –
McFadden also believes that increased media coverage of the Tokyo Paralympic Games can “transform the world”.
“Every banner, every t-shirt that a volunteer wears, you see the Olympic and Paralympic logos,” she said.
“This is the first time this has happened at a Games, and it’s really important to us. We really live in the present and it feels like it’s only going to get better.”
McFadden was born with spina bifida and is paralyzed from waist to toe.
She was abandoned in an orphanage in St. Petersburg and did not have a wheelchair, so she learned to walk on her hands.
She was adopted at the age of six by Deborah Mcfadden, who served as Disability Commissioner under US President George W. Bush.
She then moved to the United States and began to run in a wheelchair, before making her Paralympic debut at the Athens Games in 2004.
“It’s such an exciting move and I’m so happy to be in the game,” said McFadden, who also competed in cross-country skiing competitions at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
“I think with my ability I can only ride from here. I have time in this sport so I’m so excited.”
© 2021 AFP