The Allianz Ambassador has won gold before. Twice in fact – the last time was at the 2017 World Para-Championships in the 5,000 metres – making her a podium fave for the Commonwealth Games t54 1500 race on tonight at 8pm AEST and the t54 marathon on Sunday at 6am AEST. But winning gold taught the 24-year-old a valuable lesson that we could all take in: achieving your goals doesn’t necessarily change who you are.
“Athletics is interesting because it has the most structured and old-fashioned way of deciding if you succeed or not. Like, you know there’s a gold medal, silver medal and bronze medal, and you either end up on the podium or you don’t. It’s very black and white. And so if you finish fourth you feel like you’re failing because the goal is to end up on the podium,” Madison says.
“But you don’t define yourself by your failures, and in turn, you can’t be defined by your successes.
“Ending up on the top of the podium is such an incredible moment but it’s also a short-term feeling, and then it’s gone. I’m very proud of [what I’ve achieved], but the reality is it didn’t change my day-to-day. It didn’t change how I feel about myself. So I think it’s important to set these goals, but whether we actually achieve them or not can’t define anything about us.”
So as Madison get ready to compete in two big Commonwealth Games races over the next few days, what does give her meaning, if it’s not being on the podium?
“I love the training and not just the racing, you know? And I love the lifestyle that I get to lead by doing [this sport]. I love that I’m surrounded by such strong women every day of my life, because of the goals that I’ve set. And that’s so much more important than the actual goal.”
Some of the strong women she’s referring to are her coach, former Paralympian Louise Sauvage, teammate Angie Ballard and Madison’s own mum, who showed an incredible amount of strength when four-year-old Madison was declared paraplegic after developing a rare autoimmune disease.
“When I ended up in a chair when I was four, my mum was in hospital the entire time. In the middle of the night when I was asleep, she gave herself an hour where she could break down and let herself cry. She was so upset by everything and it was a shock for her. But that was it, that was all she allowed herself. Then the next day it was like [what happened to me] wasn’t a negative thing anymore, ‘It is just how it is now’. And she’s carried that through,” Madison shares.
And it’s the same resilience her mother showed, that Madison takes into her training and race day.
“I think being surrounded by those kinds of people, you feel like you have to step up, and so you do.”