In her Paralympic Games debut, 15-year-old Tatyana McFadden of Clarksville, Md., shocked most of a veteran field yesterday in Athens, winning the silver medal in the women's 100-meter wheelchair race.

McFadden, one of the youngest members of the 42-member U.S. Paralympic team, finished with a personal best time of 16.69 seconds at the Olympic Stadium. Canada's Chantal Petitclerc set a world record in the event to win the gold medal, finishing in 16.33 seconds. Manuela Schaer of Switzerland won the bronze.

"It's the best thing in the world," McFadden said afterward. The medal was especially gratifying for McFadden because she was competing in the T54 wheelchair class, a category above her usual competitive level. Paralympic athletes are classified by their physical functional level.

McFadden, who also finished ninth in the 800 final, will race in the 400 semifinals on Saturday and also compete in the 200 semifinals on Sunday. McFadden has one of the fastest 200 times in the field and is considered a medal favorite.

Born with spina bifida, McFadden spent the first six years of her life in a Russian orphanage before she was adopted in 1995 and came to the United States.

A phenom since her first athletic competition at age 8, she broke the world javelin record for her age group at the 2001 Junior National Wheelchair Championships in New Jersey.

-- Mike Wise