BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The power of sport and human spirit. A new Netflix documentary “Rising Phoenix” explains the history of the paralympic games and follows the journeys of nine elite athletes including Maryland’s Tatyana McFadden — “the fastest woman in the world.”

Tatyana was born in Russia but grew up in Howard County. She has 17 paralympic medals, seven are gold. She also won 24 marathons. For three years in a row, Tatyana has the record for the only grand slam, which means she won the Boston, London, Chicago and New York all — three years in a row.

WJZ’s Linh Bui first met Tatyana six years ago. They spoke about how she was born with spina bfida and lived in an orphanage.

Tatyana McFadden and Linh Bui.

She had no medical care and no wheelchair, so she learned to walk on her hands. Then her life changed when she was six years old. That’s when she was adopted and came to America.

When she started playing sports, it was full speed ahead.

Linh: How do you get to be the top of your sport? The very best?

Tatyana: Sacrifices and training quite a bit. Its not always easy. It can be exhausting. You’ll have your good days, you’ll have your bad days. But its for the love of the sport.

Linh: What do you say to yourself when you have those moments where you just want to give up and stop?

Tatyana: Someone else is getting better so you better not stop.

The pandemic has not slowed Tatyana down.

She’s been doing virtual races and preparing for the Tokyo paralympic games next summer.

“In Tokyo, I’m hoping to do quite a bit of events,” McFadden, 31, said, “and hopefully get top three in all of them. I am getting older so I’m like okay I gotta hang in there.”

She’s busy promoting “Rising Phoenix.”

Recently Tatyana hosted a Zoom discussion with the other athletes and Prince Harry. The Duke of Sussex appears in the documentary.

Linh: What was your reaction when you finally saw the finished film?

Tatyana: You have a lot of emotions going up and down! You laugh. You cry. You feel really empowered inside. When I finished watching the very final version I wanted to go compete in the paralympics. I was like I wanna see all these athletes again! I want to compete and be at the next games, be my best.

Tatyana is not only one of the athletes featured; she’s also a producer influencing how their story was told.

An athlete, but more importantly, an advocate.

“Sports can change and normalize everything and so does Hollywood, and so does film and so does documentary,” McFadden said. “I really want to be an important voice for people with disabilities.”

Linh Bui


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