Tatyana McFadden opens up about 2020 Paralympic Games, mental health and overcoming career threatening condition


After her best performance at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she won four gold and two silver, Tatyana McFadden was suddenly faced with her biggest challenge.

The track athlete developed blood clots in her right leg, forcing her to leave training camp in February 2017. Doctors tried everything to relieve McFadden of the clots, and even when they did, it was only a temporary success because they kept coming back. . She underwent surgery and was subsequently injected with the double-dose anticoagulants Heparin and Fragmin. Yet nothing worked.

“They couldn’t understand why it was coming back,” McFadden said. “I thought my career was over then.”

Her next option was to let her body fight off the blood clots and hopefully stabilize itself. After a physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting 20-month recovery and rehabilitation, McFadden, whose legs swelled 15-20 pounds from lymphedema, earned his spot with the U.S. team for the Tokyo Paralympic Games. 2020, which have been postponed for a year due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve come such a long way and I’m finally recovering speed and speeds that I’ve never achieved before,” she said. “I’ve changed so much, it’s a new body, a new me, a new state of mind. I definitely got stronger. I will really enjoy these Games.

Even though she feels “like a grandmother at this point” despite her 32 years old, the 17-time Paralympic medalist is thrilled to be in Tokyo for her sixth Games not just in an attempt to add to her already impressive resume, but to witness the growth of games firsthand.

NBCUniversal recently announced that it will feature a record 1,200 hours of coverage of the Tokyo Paralympic Games, starting with the opening ceremony at 7 am ET on August 24. Coverage includes over 200 hours of television coverage, early prime time on NBC, live coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies on NBCSN, and exclusive streaming coverage on the digital platforms NBC Sports and Peacock.

Not only will these Games have their greatest coverage in the United States, but for the first time, cash prizes for Paralympic athletes will be equal to those of Olympians after the United States Olympic Committee announced the adjustment shortly. long after the 2018 Winter Olympics. Previously, US Paralympians won $ 7,500 for each gold, $ 5,200 for silver and $ 3,750 for bronze, while Olympians received 37,500 $ for gold, $ 22,500 for silver and $ 15,000 for bronze.

Despite the positives and the growth, due to the ongoing pandemic announced by organizers on August 16, the Paralympic Games will continue without spectators.

“It will be my first Games without my family. It’s going to be so difficult, ”said McFadden. “Every Games my mom has this whistle and I know exactly where they are sitting because I can identify that whistle even through the screaming crowd. We usually have 20 people there. They always wear white with the “Go Tatyana” t-shirts and red and blue, so they are easily identifiable. “

Although she has no family and friends present in Tokyo with her, McFadden is physically and mentally prepared for these Games thanks to her support system of coaches, coaches and a sports psychologist. As she returned to her best physical performance after the battle with blood clots in 2017, McFadden was equally focused on her mental and emotional well-being, which became a popular topic in the sports industry following Naomi’s withdrawal. Osaka from Roland-Garros and Simone Biles’ withdrawal of a week of trials during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“I 100% respect Simone and Naomi for bringing this up because all eyes are on you, especially for top athletes, so it can be very difficult,” said McFadden. “… It’s so important to have someone to talk to because everyone has stress that can go in and out and they can be triggered for work, and our job just happens to be the Olympics. It’s so important to your well-being and so important to your overall health – it affects your sleep, your diet, your mood, your brain. If you are very stressed, you do not have this clear thought. It’s like you have muddled thoughts and can’t think 100%, so how can you perform when you can’t think 100%?

“I think that’s the right thing to gently remind people – yes we maybe these awesome superheroes with our super amazing talents, but at the end of the day we are human, we have human qualities. , so it is very important to prioritize mental health.

Not only is McFadden putting her mental health at the forefront at the 2020 Paralympic Games, but she’s hoping she finishes first in every event she competes in to continue to cement herself as the world’s best wheelchair racer of all time.

McFadden has certain milestones in mind for the Games and beyond, and is working with Powerade to achieve those goals through their ‘Power in Numbers’ campaign, which debuted in both the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. 2021. Although she doesn’t have a specific jersey number like a basketball player, she has some ideas on which number she could use as an identifier.

“I have the most marathon wins right now and would love to do 24,” said McFadden. “By the time I end my career, I want it to be 30, that’s for sure. I want to be tied for most Paralympic medals in history with 25. I’m so lucky to go to these Games and keep chasing these crazy, crazy dreams, but I probably won’t be able to pick a number until I get my hands on it. retirement, so Powerade better stay with me for another 10 years.

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