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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

Thursday, Sept. 18


Get your nerd on at Boomfest, St. Petersburgs answer to the United States popular ComicCon. Starting today, this international festival of comics will take over venues throughout the city center and includes exhibitions of comics and illustrations, film screenings, competitions and the chance to meet the genres authors, artists and experts.



Friday, Sept. 19


SPIBAs newest addition to their Cultural Discoveries events is Handmade in Germany, an exhibition featuring unique handmade objects of a significantly higher quality than mass-produced items. The work of over 100 German manufacturers will be displayed during the event, which opens today in the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Paul on Nevsky Prospekt and runs through Sept. 28.



Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during todays Djembe and Vuvuzela, a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of todays round table discussion on Interaction with Trade Unions being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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