McFadden completes marathon sweep
NEW YORK -- Tatyana McFadden has shown few vulnerabilities as a world-class wheelchair racer this season, and she came into the New York City Marathon with a chance to do something no man or woman had done before -- sweep four majors.
After collecting wins in Boston and London within a week this past spring, and taking the Chicago title last month, McFadden, 24, was favored Sunday. Like most of the athletes, she saw the chilly forecast and shuddered. Unlike most, when she saw the head wind on the course, she felt more confident. Going downhill is not her strength.
"I'm just not a very good coaster compared to the other girls, so the head wind was a little bit of an advantage for me because it slowed us down,'' said McFadden, who finished in 1 hour, 59 minutes, 13 seconds and completed the latest chapter of her stunning journey from a child abandoned in a Russian orphanage to podiums all over the world.
She credited the daily competition on the elite team at the University of Illinois -- where she is still a full-time student -- for her improvement over the past five years. "It's taken me a long time to get where I am,'' she said. "I didn't just wake up and this all happened.
"I started marathoning in 2009, and so slowly and surely, those races came.
"I was fine for the first, I think, eight miles. I was comfortable. I was climbing really consistent, pretty fast. And then around mile 16, all of a sudden, I could feel it. I felt the wind. I could just see my speed slowing down from 15 to 12 to like 7."
McFadden, who was born with spina bifida and raised in Clarksville, Md., by her adoptive mother Deborah, said she was buoyed by crowd support at a race she won in 2010 but where her effort has also twice been scuttled by flat tires. "I mean, people were shouting my name, and it was absolutely wonderful that they knew the racers and that they knew me,'' she said.
Her time was almost four minutes better than that of second-place finisher Wakako Tsuchida of Japan.
McFadden won't be coasting through the winter, either. The three-time Paralympic track gold medalist (she has 10 medals overall) intends to start training immediately to try to qualify for the U.S. cross-country skiing team that will compete at the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi next year.
"The coach came up to me and said, 'You'd be the perfect person. … You have the body for it. You have the strength, and you have the endurance, and we just need to teach you technique," she said.