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Paralympics: Hannah McFadden set for first trip to games

Local sprinter joins sister, Tatyana, on United States team

By Brent Kennedy, bkennedy@patuxent.com

12:48 PM EDT, July 4, 2012

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Hannah McFadden heard her name, but didn't react.

She had sat there for what seemed like an eternity, anxiously listening as the members of this year's United States Paralympic squad were announced one by one July 1. Yet, when the moment finally arrived and the 16-year-old Clarksville resident was officially selected as one of 19 women on this year's team, the emotions were just a little too much.

"I couldn't believe it … people were literally tapping me on the shoulder and congratulating me and I was still in shock," said McFadden, who had finished third overall in the T54 100-meter dash a day earlier at the Paralympic trials in Indianapolis.

"I knew there was a chance after the 100, but I tried not to get my hopes up. It's like I was nervous and excited all at once," she added.

As a member of this year's team, McFadden will travel to London for the 2012 Paralympics at the end of August. This marks her first time as a member of the squad and, as an added bonus, she'll get to represent her country alongside her older sister and now three-time Paralympian, Tatyana McFadden.

It's the first time two siblings will compete together at the games, let alone compete against one another like they will do in the 100-meter dash. Tatyana was first at this year's trials in the 100 with a time of 16.16 seconds, just ahead of Hannah (17.57).

And while it's all business when they line up to compete, Hannah says the two are always pulling for one another.

"For those 17 seconds you're out there, those personal relationships pause … it's just you running your race," she said. "But at the end of the day, we're definitely cheering each other on."

Tatyana, who has been off at college at the University of Illinois the last few years, says she's been thrilled to see the progress of her little sister.

"It's been really exciting seeing how hard she's trained to get to this point. She's put a lot of time in and it's paid off," Tatyana said.

Making this year's team didn't come without a little bit of adversity for Hannah, who had been disqualified in the 800 during the first day of the trials for cutting into the lane too soon.

Mentally, she says, it was a tough setback.

"I was embarrassed and mad at myself, especially because I would have made the finals," she said. "It was hard to get out of that funk, but I had to put it behind me and get ready for my races the next day."

The setback meant that McFadden was going to have to step up and perform in a race, the 100, that she felt wasn't her strong suit. Yet, competing in the same heat as her sister, that's exactly what she did, surprising even her self along the way to finishing as the second-best American.

"Honestly, the 100 is usually my weakest event because it's so short that I have a hard time getting up to the speed that I like," she said. "But I went in with a positive attitude and it worked out."

Now as a member of the team, Hannah has had to scrap most of her summer plans. Trips to California and to the beach have been canceled and replaced by a rigorous training schedule. But she's not complaining.

She's been to the Paralympics Games twice before, once in Athens and once in Beijing, to watch her sister compete. Now it's her turn.

"I know what the atmosphere is like, but now to go and be on the inside is going to be completely different. (It's) nothing like I've been through before," she said. "I'm excited, though. It's going to be an incredible experience and I can't wait."