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Tatyana McFadden hopes marathon risk pays off with Paralympic medal

Nov 1, 2013, 4:18 PM EDT

Tatyana McFadden Reuters

NEW YORK – Tatyana McFadden says she’s “sneaking in” one more race before focusing on the Sochi Paralympics.

The American wheelchair racer will eye history when she takes to the starting line of the New York City Marathon on Sunday.

McFadden, born in Russia and adopted from an orphanage at age 6, could capture the first marathon “Grand Slam” after winning in Boston, London and Chicago earlier in 2013. This comes during a year in which the 10-time Paralympic track medalist also won six gold medals at the Paralympic track World Championships in July.

In three previous appearances, McFadden won the New York City Marathon in 2010 and finished third in 2011 and sixth in 2009.

McFadden won’t slow down after finishing Sunday.

Her next goal is to win a medal at the Sochi Paralympics in cross-country skiing, a sport she didn’t take up until last season. The U.S. Paralympic Team will be selected off competition results through January.

The U.S. can send five women’s Nordic skiers (cross-country or biathlon) to the Paralympics, and McFadden is a strong contender given she won a national sprint title earlier this year. She’s on the entry list for the first World Cup event of the season beginning Dec. 7 in Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

Is one month enough time to switch from marathons to skiing?

“It’s a little bit of a risk,” McFadden, 24, said. “But I think (marathons are) a perfect foundation for cross-country skiing because it takes endurance and it takes strength. The rest of the season I’ll just focus on technique.”

McFadden would like to follow in the path of Alana Nichols, the first American woman to win gold medals in the Summer and Winter Paralympics (wheelchair basketball in 2008 and Alpine skiing in 2010).

Winning may not come as easy as it has on the track and the road.

She’s setting her goal at winning one medal of any color following fourth- and fifth-place finishes at a World Cup event in Wisconsin earlier this year.

“It’s going to be very tough, but I’m pretty confident,” McFadden said. “It’s that extra technique that I need to learn to get third.”

After Sochi, McFadden will switch back to track and field, running more marathons and readying for the Rio Paralympics.

“They’re both extremely tough (sports),” McFadden said. “Marathons really take a lot of endurance out of you. For skiing, it’s really tough. Not only is it cold, but it also takes a lot of strength to get going.”

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