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updated: 4/20/2013 7:43 AM

Boston wheelchair winner to help wounded

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  • United States elite wheelchair athlete Tatyana McFadden, and winner of the Women's Wheelchair Boston Marathon, will race in Sunday's London Marathon despite security fears in the wake of the bomb blasts in the Boston.

      United States elite wheelchair athlete Tatyana McFadden, and winner of the Women's Wheelchair Boston Marathon, will race in Sunday's London Marathon despite security fears in the wake of the bomb blasts in the Boston.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

LONDON -- Tatyana McFadden's thrill at winning her first Boston Marathon wheelchair title didn't last long.

Shortly after leaving the Boston streets to prepare for a night of celebrations, McFadden's family informed her of the bombings near the finish line that killed three people and injured more than 180.

"They had this glazed look on their faces and it was like, `What happened, what is going on?"' she said Friday. "And they said two explosions had gone off. ... We were watching the replay over and over and over and over and over. That was just the toughest part to see, the mad chaos, people running, people were injured."

Along with five teammates, McFadden scrambled out of Boston onto a flight to her Baltimore home.

"It was just muted. ... I wasn't even worried about celebrating," she said. "You just think about others immediately. I guess celebration will come later in the road ... so we'll see on Sunday."

Sunday is McFadden's 24th birthday. It will be marked by a defiant return to action in the London Marathon.

"We will be racing for the people in Boston," she said from her hotel overlooking the River Thames. "So I'll be carrying them in my heart."

Giving in to the terrorists was never in doubt.

"There is no concern about running on Sunday," McFadden said. "We can't live our life in fear because then we are letting those people (the bombers) win and that's not what it's about. It's about trying to continue life and help those cope with the heartache."

She said sports can help inspire those trying to recover. For McFadden, a winner of three gold medals at the London Paralympics, it's a clear mission:

"I feel it's my responsibility," she said. "It's important as an elite runner -- and an elite runner with a disability -- to be a role model to those who, especially who are newly injured. ... It's important for me to be an advocate. I go everywhere just to talk about disability and rebirthing life. I have lived with many challenges in my life, every single day, and so I know somewhat of what it's like."

Doctors never expected McFadden to live long.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, with spina bifida -- a spinal cord defect in newborns -- McFadden was abandoned in an orphanage. She walked on her hands for six years before being adopted by an American family and beginning a new life in Baltimore.

"It's about nurture and that's what we need to do for the people in Boston. ... That's how you help to continue a longer life," she said.

Crossing the line first on Sunday in front of Buckingham Palace, and capturing a second major title in a week, won't just be a personal triumph. It will be a victory for sports, according to McFadden, a demonstration that athletes won't cower.

"There are always going to be a few bad people in this world but the majority are good," McFadden said. "It's about not letting those bad people win and ... showing, `Hey, we're not going to let this stop us."'

The winner of the men's wheelchair marathon in Boston also arrives in London on a mission to give "motivation and hope to other people around the world."

Hiroyuki Yamamoto was in a shopping mall savoring his victory when the bombs exploded on Monday.

And hearing about the death of 8-year-old spectator Martin Richard brought back painful memories for Yamamoto. His 2-year-old son, Kanta, died in 2011 after being hit by a drunken driver.

"I'm very angry, very sad and disappointed at what happened ... ordinary citizens being targeted for terrorism," the Japanese runner said through a translator.

"That really reminded me of my son, with an eight-year-old kid losing his life. Terrorism won't change the world and I really don't want to see these things happen again."

Assured of security in London, Yamamoto can't wait to get back running.

"The best thing that the wheelchair athletes -- especially from Japan -- can do is the best race we can on Sunday," he said. "And also to be back for the 118th Boston Marathon next year."

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