Women’s para-athletics star Tatyana McFadden showed why she is considered one of her discipline's greatest ever athletes after she claimed silver in the women's 800m T54 wheelchair final on Sunday 29 August.
Only a great performance from Switzerland's Manuela Schaer could keep McFadden off the top of the podium, Schaer produced a personal best of 1:42.81 to win gold.
That was fractions ahead of McFadden who clocked 1:43.16, and Susannah Scaroni, another U.S. athlete, bagged bronze in 1:44.43.
It's a 19th Paralympic medal for McFadden who added silver to the bronze medal she won in the 5000m on Saturday in Tokyo.
"I know it's crazy. 19 and counting. It's a big honour for me today. It was a really tough race. With Manuela you can't slip. I've been racing against Manuela since I was 15 and she's so strong. I'm really proud of myself for getting up there and hanging in," said McFadden, who has now won medals at five Paralympics stretching back 15 years to Athens 2004, and she hasn't finished yet.
Tatyana McFadden: Schedule at Tokyo 2020
She'll compete in three more events in Tokyo in the 400m, 1500m, and marathon events where she aims to add that eight gold medal and more.
Reigning champion in both the 400 and 1500m events, the USA star is going for a golden threepeat in both distances.
The 32-year-old's performance in Tokyo is all the more incredible when you consider that in February 2017, the six-time Paralympian’s life dramatically altered after she was diagnosed with life-threatening blood clots. It left her unsure whether she would compete again.
Driven by her passion for competition and a determination to keep advocating for Paralympic sport, as soon as she recovered she was getting straight back into gear with her mind firmly set on making it to Japan.
Just before her Paralympic campaign in Japan got underway McFadden spoke exclusively to Olympics.com about what keeps her fire burning and the responsibility she takes on each time she hits the track.
Why Tatyana McFadden continues to compete
For Paralympians, as for Olympians, committing to the pursuit of sporting greatness is relentless.
The demands of training, the triumphs, the heartbreaks, the injuries – it is enough to leave one wondering why anyone keeps at it, particularly when you have reached the heights that McFadden has.
For the Paralympic superstar the desire to keep pushing herself to the very limits is two-fold:
“I love competition."
“But also, it is a much bigger picture of the community and the outreach that you can have in sports.”
For the American, using the platform the Paralympics offers enables her to touch the lives of millions she would not typically be able to access.
“For us, talking about our sport and disability and such at the Paralympics is really important because it translates to our own communities.”
“We need to change that perspective and change that narrative and we’re doing it through sports as we talk about it.”
“Disability is not a taboo. And to break the stereotypes and to break the stigma is so important."
“That’s what is really amazing about the Paralympics. I really do feel that there’s such a special camaraderie because we’re all fighting a bigger fight.”
“Sports is such a great equaliser”- Tatyana McFadden
"Taking care of you first is the number one thing"
With her athletic and advocacy ambitions in mind every time she competes McFadden also acknowledges that when it comes to those great pressure moments, when everyone expects you to deliver, it’s important to remember that you are at the very first, a human being.
“You have only that one moment,” the seven-time Paralympic gold medallist shared, “that is the challenging part.”
“You don’t know what can happen. You don’t know what you can stir up. You don’t know what happened the night before with family or an event or someone’s health or anything.”
“I think it’s really important that you do take care of yourself, that you do look at the mental health, because if you want to survive this for a long time or if you want to, you know, do things after the sport, I think taking care of you first is the number one thing.”
The topic of mental health and the pressures of competing emerged as an important theme out of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
American gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of several of her events after she noted a disconnection between her mind and body. Seeking to protect herself, she only competed when she felt able.
The significance of this moment for McFadden, was big.
“The Olympic side was a great example and just watching everything unfolds and having such great advocates on the Olympic side, like Naomi [Osaka] and Simone Biles, it was really inspiring.”
“The Olympics and Paralympics is our job.”
“If you look at any normal person, sometimes you may go to into the office angry or you’re going to show up on Zoom and you’re like, so mad and so frustrated. We feel the same way sometimes.”
When is Tatyana McFadden competing next at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics in 2021?
Tatyana McFadden will be back on track at Tokyo 2020 on Monday August 30 from 9:26 JST for the women's 1500m T54 heats.
If she qualifies, she will race again later on in the day in the final scheduled for 20:56 JST.
Her two other events are:
Women's 400m T54 - Thursday 2 September with heats starting at 12:42pm and the final at 19:40pm.
Women's marathon T54 - Sunday 5 September 6:40.