Dreaming Big: Champion Wheelchair Racer Mentors Next Generation | WBUR

Submitted by anoopa on Fri, 10/05/2018 - 14:20

August 17, 2018

At 9 years old, Wilson is a precocious wheelchair racing talent. And at 29, McFadden is the most decorated female wheelchair racer in the world. She’s won 18 major world marathon titles, including four Grand Slams — that’s winning Boston, London, Chicago and New York City in the same calendar year. On the track, she’s won 10 Paralympic medals and 14 World Championship medals.
Young wheelchair racer Maddie with her mentor Tatyana McFadden
McFadden’s dominance has inspired the next generation of wheelchair racers, girls like Wilson. Both will be competing in the women’s wheelchair division at Sunday’s Falmouth Road Race. McFadden will be going for a course record, while Wilson hopes for a personal best.

“Maddie’s accomplishments are just amazing,” says McFadden. “And the sport has grown so much. I feel like athletes before me have left legacies where I was able to do things like be part of the Paralympics a little more equally and do marathons. I feel like each athlete now is speaking out about the importance of racing. And really pushing this sport has allowed Maddie to do a road race like Falmouth.”

Every chance McFadden gets, she mentors other racers. She offers support through social media or passes along training advice at races like Falmouth or recommends para-sport clubs and coaches.

And sometimes there’s a rare opportunity to spend an hour training alongside a young athlete like Wilson.

When Wilson was 4 years old, her family drove from Spencer to Natick to watch McFadden compete in the Boston Marathon. And Wilson immediately told her parents she wanted a racing chair.