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Sports Olympics

Paralympic star Tatyana McFadden enjoyed competition, family in Sochi

Tatyana McFadden tried to maintain realistic expectations.

After all, the Clarksville resident had spent only a few months of her life training on snow, and she'd be competing against the best in the world at the Sochi Paralympics.

This wasn't track and field or a marathon, arenas McFadden had dominated for years. She figured a series of top-10 finishes would be pretty good.

As usual, however, the Paralympic superstar earned some shiny hardware at the recently concluded winter games. She took a silver medal in the 1-kilometer sit skiing racing, adding to a collection that includes 10 medals from the summer Paralympics and numerous marathon titles.

"I definitely exceeded my expectations," she said in a telephone interview Tuesday, less than 24 hours after her return flight from Russia landed in New York.

Her Sochi experience went beyond the silver medal and the fifth- and seventh-place finishes in her other races. McFadden did it all in front of a cheering section that included her adopted American family and her biological Russian family.

McFadden spent her early childhood in a Russian orphanage, scooting around on her hands because spina bifida paralyzed her from the waist down. She discovered her athletic prowess only after Deborah McFadden, an American government worker, adopted her and brought her to Clarksville.

She reconnected with her birth mother, Nina Polivikova, on a previous trip to Russia. And she invited Polivikova and other relatives to watch her compete for the first time in Sochi

"That was definitely a special moment for me," she said. "More than coming back with medals, just having my family there was the most important thing."

Despite a crash course of ski training in Colorado, McFadden was nervous going into the games. "I hope I am where I should be," she confided to coaches.

Just trust yourself and enjoy it, they told her.

The Sochi games occurred against a backdrop of political unrest, with Russia drawing international scrutiny for its aggressive stance toward Ukraine. But McFadden said the Paralympic village was cloistered, with the focus on competition and the hosts providing top-notch hospitality.

"Everything was absolutely perfect," she said.

Now that she's back, she'll have little time to rest before the London Marathon on April 13. She planned to fly to Chicago later Tuesday to resume training.

"It's kind of scary," she said, laughing about her schedule. "I'm pretty exhausted. But I'll be happy to get going again."

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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