Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Tatyana Mcfadden of United States, second left in the first row, poses with her Russian birth mum, second right in the first row, after her race during the ladies 12km cross country ski, sitting event at the 2014 Winter Paralympic, Sunday, March 9, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Rob Harris)
U.S. Paralympian reunited with Russian birth mother
First Published Mar 09 2014 11:38 am • Last Updated Mar 09 2014 11:07 pm

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia • Pushing through pain in her debut at the Winter Paralympics, Tatyana McFadden only had to remember who was watching to draw inspiration on this emotional homecoming.

Together in the stands at the cross-country skiing were McFadden’s Russian birth mother and the American who adopted her as an ailing child.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"I got to see them before I raced so I think it gave me that extra energy, an extra boost," the 24-year-old McFadden said after finishing fifth. "I just raced for my family today. When I was feeling tired, in pain and frustrated I just had to think about my family in the stands."

When McFadden left a St. Petersburg orphanage for Maryland 20 years ago, she was not expected to live long, let alone return to Russia. After spending the first six years of life walking on her hands because of spina bifida, even after several operations in the U.S., her adoptive family feared the worst.

But McFadden survived against the odds, with a fighting spirit that drove her into an unlikely yet successful sporting career, leading to Sunday’s emotional and rare reunion with the mother forced to abandon her.

"I am very proud, it’s amazing," said Nina Polevikova, beaming with pride to her daughter as her Russian family translated. "It’s like a miracle."

McFadden is already a decorated athlete, with 10 medals from the last three Summer Paralympic Games in wheelchair racing, and last year the first "grand slam" in wheelchair marathon racing.

Deborah McFadden, who adopted Tatyana at age 6, had expected the winnings from the Boston, Chicago, London and New York marathon to be spent on a new car. Instead that cash was used to bring her birth family and the St. Petersburg orphanage director to Sochi.

"Tatyana’s my daughter, but it’s taken a lot of people to get her where she is today," said Deborah McFadden, who first met Tatyana in Russia while working as a commissioner of disabilities for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"She’s alive and she is back in the country where I met her where she wasn’t supposed to survive."


story continues below
story continues below

She’s doing more than just surviving. And the pride of her mothers was clear from the tearful hugs as she recovered from the grueling Paralympic debut over 12 kilometers.

"It’s definitely been a tough transition," said McFadden, who won three golds on the track at the 2012 London Paralympics. "It’s harder than wheelchair racing because the snow can change every day."

At a Paralympics overshadowed at times by politics in Russia, McFadden steered clear from controversy. Previously, McFadden tried unsuccessfully to derail a Russian law that prohibits adoptions of Russian children by American parents.

"We did everything we could," she said. "I think that being here people can see my story and what an impact it is, just from my personal experience."

So adopting a more diplomatic stance than previously, she instead delivered a message to disabled children who might have given up hope.

"I’ve always had a lot of courage, and a lot of strength," she said. "And it made me the person I am today."

And, with three more events to come in Sochi, McFadden will hope to return from Russia with a medal,

"I love being part of the (Russian) culture, eating the food and meeting the people," she said. "But my home is in America."

———

Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.