By Jane Marion
With Ron Cassie And Corey Mclaughlin
Photography by David Colwell

Sports

Heavenly Bodies

An Olympic figure skater, a boxing phenom, a director of dance, a pro lacrosse player, and a pair of Paralympian sisters. For these local athletes, form meets function.

Tatyana McFadden, 28

Para track and field athlete | born in russia, raised in clarksville

Winner of 17 Paralympic Games medals since 2004, including a combined seven gold medals at 2016 Rio and 2012 London Games; most decorated wheelchair marathon champion in history, sweeping the Boston-London-Chicago-New York “grand slam” for four consecutive years.

I really learned to love and appreciate my body, because, growing up, you can definitely see that I’m different—no doubt about it. In high school, I would get made fun of. It was so hard. I’m really proud of my body, but it went through a lot. It went through living in an orphanage, it went through the Olympic Games, and becoming the healthy body I have now. We beat ourselves up for a lot of things. Why is my body this way and not that way? Why do I gain weight here and not there? Why am I short? Why am I tall? We really have to stop that. That’s something I now realize—everyone is unique. Why do we all need to be the same? When I found something that I loved like sports and track and marathons, I really learned to love and accept myself because I found the beauty in what I loved, and I found myself in loving that. My favorite body parts are my arms and my back, because people automatically recognize me for them. They are muscles that allow me to compete and be who I am.

Kimmie Meissner, 28

Figure Skater | resident of canton

Competed in 2006 Winter Olympics; former world champion 2006; Four Continents champion 2007; U.S. national champion; skating coach.

I started skating in ’96. There was a blizzard. Our backyard was frozen, and my brothers brought out their hockey skates and put them on me. I stayed out there all day—I didn’t want to come in. It was the same thing when they brought me to the rink. What I love about skating is how independent I can be. Coming from a larger family with three older brothers, I love that it’s super feminine, but also athletic, and it allowed me to be better than the boys. I skate every day and train myself for at least 50 minutes. I’m very active. I love hiking, rock climbing, and swimming. Going through puberty, my body was changing a lot. I was very uncomfortable with my legs and my hips. I had a trainer and coach in Florida who made a big deal about having to lose weight, and I was 18 or 19 at the time. That has always stuck with me. I feel way more comfortable and settled now with who I am, but some days I can be hypercritical. I have to tell myself that if other people were in my shoes, they’d want to be strong to complete these jumps. My favorite body part is my calves. I love them in heels—they are really strong, and being strong is beautiful.

Kimmie Meissner, 28

Figure Skater | resident of canton

Competed in 2006 Winter Olympics; former world champion 2006; Four Continents champion 2007; U.S. national champion; skating coach.

I started skating in ’96. There was a blizzard. Our backyard was frozen, and my brothers brought out their hockey skates and put them on me. I stayed out there all day—I didn’t want to come in. It was the same thing when they brought me to the rink. What I love about skating is how independent I can be. Coming from a larger family with three older brothers, I love that it’s super feminine, but also athletic, and it allowed me to be better than the boys. I skate every day and train myself for at least 50 minutes. I’m very active. I love hiking, rock climbing, and swimming. Going through puberty, my body was changing a lot. I was very uncomfortable with my legs and my hips. I had a trainer and coach in Florida who made a big deal about having to lose weight, and I was 18 or 19 at the time. That has always stuck with me. I feel way more comfortable and settled now with who I am, but some days I can be hypercritical. I have to tell myself that if other people were in my shoes, they’d want to be strong to complete these jumps. My favorite body part is my calves. I love them in heels—they are really strong, and being strong is beautiful.

Scott Rodgers, 30

Pro lacrosse goalie, Ohio Machine | resident of canton

Calvert Hall strength coach; former Notre Dame goalie; 2010 NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse tournament Most Outstanding Player; 2016 Major League Lacrosse All-Star Game MVP; Johns Hopkins Lacrosse Assistant Strength & Conditioning coach.

I’m 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds. I’m not the normal lacrosse goalie. I’ve been working out since I was in sixth grade. I’ve never shied away from being a big guy. I’ve owned it and molded my goaltending style to my strengths, whether it be my size or hand speed. I use my muscles to my advantage. ¶ I usually bulk up in the winter and then cut my weight down before training camp starts in the spring. Right now, I’m working out twice a day, benching 375 pounds, and deadlifting 600. I like to put in 4,500 calories per day if I can. ¶ Lacrosse is such a white-collar sport, but I come from a blue-collar background. My dad was a corrections officer at Riker’s Island for 20 years. My mom is a nurse. I went to Notre Dame with no financial help from my parents. Coming from that background gave me an edge. I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder. That’s why I like Baltimore. I’m from Long Island, but Baltimore is a blue-collar city, and I’m a blue-collar guy. And they respect the lacrosse athlete here. That’s what I’ve always wanted.

Lorenzo Simpson, 17

U.S. youth boxing team | resident of reisterstown

Top-ranked youth boxer in the nation at 165 pounds; Six-time Silver Gloves champion; Junior Olympics Gold Medalist.

My uncle, Hasim Rahman, was a world champion, and I used to go to his fights. His son, Sharif, was the first one to put gloves on me, and when I was seven years old, my mother and stepfather brought me to The Upton Boxing Center. The first day I stepped in the gym, I sparred and whooped a kid. I got everything that day, even my nickname, “Truck.” Gervonta Davis—his nickname is “Tank”—was training me. I like to smile, even when I’m in the ring, because there were tough times when I couldn’t. It freaks out some of my opponents. “Why is he smiling? Is he serious?” Some of them are shocked. But that’s just me having fun. I never thought I’d get this far, but through all the national championships, I never settled with myself. My goals are to make the 2020 Olympic team and win gold, and to become a multiple-time world champion. Usually, during the week, I do conditioning in the morning and then box in the evenings. On Saturday, I do fun activities like paintball or trampoline and rest a little bit. On Sunday, I do yoga and chiropractic [treatment]. I don’t lift weights. Running keeps your endurance up. That’s the most important thing for a boxer. I can run 7.5 miles in about 30 minutes. My favorite body part? My fists.

Lorenzo Simpson, 17

U.S. youth boxing team | resident of reisterstown

Top-ranked youth boxer in the nation at 165 pounds; Six-time Silver Gloves champion; Junior Olympics Gold Medalist.

My uncle, Hasim Rahman, was a world champion, and I used to go to his fights. His son, Sharif, was the first one to put gloves on me, and when I was seven years old, my mother and stepfather brought me to The Upton Boxing Center. The first day I stepped in the gym, I sparred and whooped a kid. I got everything that day, even my nickname, “Truck.” Gervonta Davis—his nickname is “Tank”—was training me. I like to smile, even when I’m in the ring, because there were tough times when I couldn’t. It freaks out some of my opponents. “Why is he smiling? Is he serious?” Some of them are shocked. But that’s just me having fun. I never thought I’d get this far, but through all the national championships, I never settled with myself. My goals are to make the 2020 Olympic team and win gold, and to become a multiple-time world champion. Usually, during the week, I do conditioning in the morning and then box in the evenings. On Saturday, I do fun activities like paintball or trampoline and rest a little bit. On Sunday, I do yoga and chiropractic [treatment]. I don’t lift weights. Running keeps your endurance up. That’s the most important thing for a boxer. I can run 7.5 miles in about 30 minutes. My favorite body part? My fists.

Danah Bella, 43

DanceR | resident of mount vernon

Dance chair, Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute; artistic director, Danah Bella Dance.

I started dancing when I was seven years old, and I’ve been dancing ever since. I’m always so happy when I’m moving, and dancing, in particular. I don’t have a typical ballet body, so it’s always been a struggle. I’m older now, and I’ve had a child, so it’s hard finding the time to work out. Once you get older, you have to find other ways to maintain. I do yoga and run at least two miles on days that I teach. I run for stamina. I decided to pursue a career in modern dance in my junior year of college, after having a conversation with my professor. He started talking about Isadora Duncan and how she started modern dance to get away from the restrictions of ballet. She was in a corset all the time for ballet, but then she did these really scandalous things—like wearing a tunic without a bra and not wearing shoes, which is unheard of in ballet. We talked about how that was a feminist thing to do. As soon as my professor said that, I thought, “How could I not be a part of this feminist movement?” In that moment, I distinctly remember thinking, “This is what I want to do with my life.”

Hannah McFadden, 21

Para Track and Field Athlete | born in albania, raised in clarksville

U.S. Paralympian at 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio Games; Bronze medalist at both the 2015 and 2017 World Championships in the 100-meter and 200-meter events.

I call my leg “thunder thigh.” My leg is my favorite body part because my leg gets me everyplace, and when I was young, I would hop everywhere. My leg was a carrier for me. It has carried me throughout life, and I depend on it a lot. In high school, people would make fun of my walk. I’d never say anything or look back. My friends would get mad. I’d say, “It’s not worth it to me.” I know who I am. I know what I am worth. It gave me tough skin. People often identify me as this girl missing her leg. I don’t like that. For me, the [prosthetic leg] is like having a freckle. If good people surround you and you’re happy, your body image will be good, too.

Hannah McFadden, 21

Para Track and Field Athlete | born in albania, raised in clarksville

U.S. Paralympian at 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio Games; Bronze medalist at both the 2015 and 2017 World Championships in the 100-meter and 200-meter events.

I call my leg “thunder thigh.” My leg is my favorite body part because my leg gets me everyplace, and when I was young, I would hop everywhere. My leg was a carrier for me. It has carried me throughout life, and I depend on it a lot. In high school, people would make fun of my walk. I’d never say anything or look back. My friends would get mad. I’d say, “It’s not worth it to me.” I know who I am. I know what I am worth. It gave me tough skin. People often identify me as this girl missing her leg. I don’t like that. For me, the [prosthetic leg] is like having a freckle. If good people surround you and you’re happy, your body image will be good, too.

Deborah McFadden, center, poses with her daughters Tatyana, right, and Hannah, left.

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