Thank you to all of my readers who submitted a suggestion for this Wicked Women Wednesday, athlete addition. However, it was one of my colleagues who suggested the Wicked (Awesome) Woman I want to honor this Wednesday: Tatyana McFadden. Born with spina bifida (a hole in her spine), Tatyana spent the first six years of her life in a Russian orphanage with virtually nothing, not even a wheelchair.
In 1994, Deborah McFadden, then Commissioner of Disabilities for the U.S. Department of Health, came upon Tatyana while visiting her orphanage on an otherwise routine business trip. Deborah adopted Tatyana, brought her to the United States and gave her both a wheelchair and a new start on life.
Tatyana tried every sport she could find; wheelchair basketball, swimming, ice hockey, and even scuba diving. At 15, Tatyana made her Paralympic debut in Athens in 2004. She was the youngest member of Team USA. She returned from Greece with her first two medals and a hunger to become the best. Two years later she was, winning gold at the World Championships and setting a new World Record in the 100 meter event. At the 2008 Paralympic in Beijing, at 19, she earned four more medals. In London, in 2012, she added another four medals, three of which were gold. One year later, at the 2013 World Championships, she became the first athlete in history to win six gold medals at the same competition. She was only 24.
In 2013 she won the Boston, London, Chicago and New York marathons, becoming the first man or woman, able-bodied or disabled, to win the Grand Slam (4 World Major Marathons in the same year) and then repeated her Grand Slam victory in 2014.
And that's not all, folks!
Tatyana had difficulty competing at high school. Her school officials would not allow her to race at the same time as able-bodied runners. They said her racing chair created a safety hazard and gave her an unfair advantage (as the best wheelchair racers are noticeably faster than runners over long distances). She could compete in separate wheelchair events at high school meets, which meant that she would circle around an otherwise empty track by herself.
In 2005 Tatyana and Deborah McFadden filed suit against the Howard County Public School System and won the right for her to race with her fellow classmates. Her lawsuit is credited with the eventual passage of the Maryland Fitness and Athletics Equity for Students with Disabilities Act, requiring schools to give students with disabilities the opportunity to compete in interscholastic athletics.
Tatyana went on to press for federal legislation so that other students with disabilities across the USA would have equal access. In 2013 it was passed and now all students with disabilities will have opportunities to be involved with sports in school.
Now, that is one Wicked (Awesome) Woman Athlete!
I write about power dynamics in relationships, the empowerment of women, and the ethical and moral dilemmas love can create in our lives. This is a space where I meditate on those themes and share them with the word. Who knows, my next novel may start right here...