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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, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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