SeeHer Story Celebrates Paralympic Medalist Tatyana McFadden in Episode 12
Paralympic athlete Tatyana McFadden doesn't let her disability stop her from reaching her goals — or from crushing them, for that matter.
The 31-year-old continues to break stereotypes and records as she dominates the sport of wheelchair racing, which is why SeeHer Story is celebrating Tatyana in this week's episode.
Katie Couric Media and PEOPLE partnered to create the second season of SeeHer Story, a weekly digital video series produced to celebrate various female trailblazers from the past 100 years to today.
Tatyana didn't have an easy start in life.
In 1989, she was born with spina bifida in Leningrad, Russia, where she lived in an orphanage without proper medical care until she was six years old.
“I didn’t have a wheelchair. The only way to get around was that I just scooted around the floor using my hands as my legs," Tatyana recalled in an early interview.
Everything changed when Deborah McFadden, an American, came to visit the orphanage and adopted Tatyana.
"I knew at that moment, the woman that walked through the door was my mom," Tatyana said.
After moving to America, Tatyana finally got a wheelchair and found a love for sports after having a few different surgeries.
But it was her hand-pedal bicycle — called a racing chair — that made her realize she could be an athlete.
"It was something that I’d never really felt before – freedom and that I could go really fast," she remembered thinking at the time.
Tatyana began training and went on to dominate in the sport of wheelchair racing. In 2004, she raced in her first Paralympics and has since won four gold medals; she was named best female athlete in 2016.
"She’s got muscles layered on top of muscles. She’s stronger than anyone else so we call her The Beast," Tatyana's coach, Adam Bleakney, said in an interview.
Even the coronavirus pandemic hasn't stopped Tatyana from advancing her game as she continues to train 120 miles a week; when it comes to following her dreams, Tatyana never gives up. She even produced a Netflix documentary, Rising Phoenix, about athletes in the Paralympic Games.
"The attitude I’ve always had, ever since I was living in the orphanage — whatever I can set my mind to, I can do it," she said in the clip.
SeeHer Story will be a regular feature in PEOPLE’s print edition, the weekday morning newsletter Wake-Up Call with Katie Couric and on PeopleTV’s entertainment show, PEOPLE Now.
"SeeHer Story celebrates the important contributions of bold women from the past 100 years who have changed our country forever,” said Couric in a statement. “We hope recognizing them and telling their stories will not only give them their due but will also inspire the next generation of leaders.”
She added, “Together with Meredith and PEOPLE, I’m so excited to bring back a second season of stories of women whose names you may know — and put those whose achievements are not as well-known — front and center so we can celebrate them as well.”
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