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McFadden aims for 7 medal haul in Rio

2016-07-01 23:43
tatyana mcFadden
Tatyana McFadden (Getty Images)

Charlotte - Tatyana McFadden has won the Boston Marathon wheelchair race four times. In April, she crossed the line first at Boston and then at the London Marathon in the same week.

So why not go for seven golds at the Rio Paralympics this September, in events from the 100 metres on up?

"I'm really a sprinter," McFadden said after winning the 5 000-metre race at the US Paralympic trials.

Competing at the meet through Saturday, McFadden plans to attempt a medal haul rivaling Michael Phelps when she gets to Brazil.

Not that it seems to phase her much. When asked about her goal after the 5000 on Thursday night, McFadden just praised her teammates and talked about the tough competition she'll face.

It was basic athlete-speak from one of the faces of America's Paralympic team, and one of the few US paralympians with major corporate sponsors, including BMW USA, BP, Coca-Cola and Nike.

McFadden's 11 Paralympic medals, including three gold over four previous games, means her quest is getting significant attention. In addition to the marathon and 5000, McFadden hopes to win gold in the 100 metres, the 400, 800, 1500 and 4 X 400-metre relay.

"I've never had an athlete that could be so successful in such a wide range," said McFadden's coach, Adam Bleakney.

That's good not only for McFadden, but for the Paralympic movement in general, he said.

"These athletes deserve this type of system to be recognised and rewarded for their accomplishments and athleticism," he said. "Tatyana is a part of it."

Bleakney said his athlete's secret weapon is her ability to get off the starting line quickly. "She's layers of muscle on top of muscle," he said.

That strength and sprinting background becomes the deciding factor over long distances, when the outcome rests on being able to mount attacks past competitors.

This was evident on Thursday in the 5000, when McFadden repeatedly surged past the other racers and moved from fifth to first with a few laps to go.

Earlier in the day, in the 800-metre final, McFadden pushed hard off the line and moved into the front of the pack.

"You can't have a mediocre start and be able to stay with the top athletes," said Bleakney, who has made mechanics at the gun a key element of McFadden's training, as opposed to simply piling on the miles.

McFadden is expected to get another edge with a new, aerodynamic, carbon-fiber frame racing chair designed by BMW USA for Team USA.

"It'll really become part of you, just like a pair of shoes," McFadden said. "They'll change the face of Paralympic sport."

Born with spina bifida, McFadden spent the first six years of her life in a Russian orphanage before being adopted by Deborah McFadden and raised by Deborah and her longtime partner, Bridget O'Shaughnessey, in Maryland.

When the star athlete is at home, she sometimes trains with O'Shaunessey, who rides alongside on her bike. "It's got 21 speeds and it's still not fast enough - or I'm not," O'Shaughnessey said with a laugh.

The excitement for the seven-medal chase is met with some worry by her parents. "The body can only take so much," O'Shaughnessey said.

The 27-year-old McFadden herself doesn't make bold predictions.

"It's going to be tough," she said. "I'm getting older and smarter, so are other people - and they're getting faster."

Read more on:    athletics

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