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America's St. Pete-born Paralympic Star Blocks Out Political Tensions

Published: March 8, 2014 (Issue # 1800)



  • Tatyana McFadden was born in St. Petersburg and grew up in a Russian orphanage before being adopted by a U.S. family and raised in Maryland.
    Photo: Facebook.com

Faced with tensions between her birth country and the nation that turned her into one of the worlds top Paralympians, Russia-born U.S. athlete Tatyana McFadden told R-Sport on Thursday she is trying to block out politics in Sochi.

Russia and the U.S. have been at loggerheads in recent weeks over the crisis in Ukraine, with American officials and lawmakers threatening sanctions against Russia, which backed ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

Im here just to compete and Im here for myself and Im here to represent Team USA, said McFadden, a cross-country skier who was born in St. Petersburg and grew up in a Russian orphanage before being adopted by a U.S. family and raised in Maryland.

Its about concentrating on my results, my skiing and being really happy to be here. Its absolutely gorgeous and Im really, really pleased the venue is absolutely wonderful, she added.

McFadden, 24, is a triple Summer Paralympics gold medalist in wheelchair track racing, but has spent the last year and a half in training to compete as a Winter Sports athlete in Sochi.

McFadden said she of course feels a special connection with competing in Russia, and the Games mark a personal watershed for her.

This is where I was born, but my home is in America. Im really excited and my familys going to be here, said McFadden, who was born with spina bifida. My birth moms going to be here, the orphanage director, my cousins, so Im really quite excited that theyre all going to be here. Its the first time that theyre going to be able to see me in live action.

She is ranked 14th in the world in cross-country.

McFaddens teammate Oksana Masters has a similar background; born in Ukraine but representing the U.S. in cross-country skiing and biathlon in Sochi.

Im not here to worry about the politics, Masters, ranked 11th in cross-country, told R-Sport, adding that tension had not reached the Paralympic village.

I think its a pretty happy family, she said. Everyones really fine, were playing air hockey together. Its a pretty fun environment to be around, meeting new athletes and I think the politics doesnt come into it."

Masters, also 24, was born with multiple disabilities linked to radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl disaster and raised in an orphanage in Ukraine before being adopted by a family from Kentucky, where she took up sport, going on to win rowing bronze at the 2012 Summer Paralympics.

Masters first competitive event of the March 7-16 Paralympics is the 6km sitting biathlon Saturday, before she and McFadden tackle the 12km sit-skiing a day later.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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