RCDS was honored to host this year's Character, Leadership & Ethics Speaker, Olympic Gold Medalist and recent Boston Marathon winner, Tatyana McFadden. Tatyana's story is extraordinary: born with spina bifida in St. Petersburg, Russia, she was abandoned to an orphanage shortly after her birth. At age six, she was adopted by Deborah McFadden and Bridget O'Shaughnessey and brought to Baltimore where she received her first wheelchair and began to thrive, eventually becoming an activist and athlete who competes at the highest levels and speaks internationally about adoption, disabilities, and discrimination.
"I love sharing my story especially with the youth and hopefully changing perspective on what disability is, and how it's about our character that gets us to where we are and not what we look like," commented McFadden.
Since 2004, Tatyana has earned 17 medals in Summer/Winter Paralympics. In 2013, she won marathons in Boston, Chicago, London, and New York, becoming the first person to win all four in one year. She went on to accomplish this feat four times between 2013 and 2016. Most recently, she won this year's 122nd Boston Marathon. McFadden is a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana and has been influential in helping to pass the 2013 federal legislation so that students with disabilities can compete in athletics. Her autobiography, Ya Sama! Moments from my Life, was published in 2016.
Her cousin, Katie O'Shaughnessey, Chair of Computer Science at Rye, welcomed her to the Upper School Morning Meeting: "I'll never forget meeting her for the first time at my brother's wedding: this little girl in a sporty wheelchair, with lights flashing on the wheels. She rolled into that wedding full of joy and made quite the impression, and she has been blazing an amazing trail ever since."
Annie Cooper '19, reflected after the Captains' Luncheon with McFadden, "Tatyana was one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. She not only was an astoundingly accomplished athlete, but also an amazing person. It was clear how the lessons she has learned by competing athletically have been implemented in her daily life. Her persistence, work ethic, and spirit were an inspiration to us all."