Wheelchair athlete can compete in track events

Updated: January 9, 2007, 11:05 PM ET
Associated Press

BALTIMORE -- A wheelchair athlete will be allowed to race alongside her high school teammates at track meets.

Tatyana McFadden, a 17-year-old two-time Paralympic medalist, had already won a preliminary injunction from a federal judge that allowed her to compete with her teammates until the case could be heard.

On Monday, Howard County Public Schools came to a settlement with the Maryland Disability Law Center to allow McFadden, who has spina bifida, to participate in the same number of track events as other students. She'll also be able to wear a team uniform, earn points for her team and receive recognition of her accomplishments, such as school letters.

"This situation, where even a world-class athlete had difficulty competing in high school because of her disability, has taught us all a great deal," Lauren Young, director of litigation for the Disability Law Center, said in a statement.

The center filed the federal suit on McFadden's behalf.

In May, McFadden and an able-bodied teammate were disqualified from a 1,600-meter race at state track meet after she was accused of pacing the teammate, who won the race before her time was thrown out. Without the 10 points from the victory, Atholton High School, the defending Class 2A state champion in girls' track, finished third.

McFadden, whose legs are paralyzed, won a silver and a bronze medal at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, and plans to compete in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. Her lawsuit challenged the Howard County school system policy that forced her to compete separately from runners -- often by herself, a circumstance she termed "embarrassing."

McFadden's mother, Deborah McFadden, said her daughter simply wants to compete with her teammates.

"We didn't sue for money; we sued for opportunity," Deborah McFadden told The Baltimore Examiner.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press