Madison de Rozario on what it took to win that epic marathon in Tokyo

Paralympian Madison de Rozario on what it took to win that epic marathon in Tokyo

Madison de Rozario

“I remember coming over that hill and just giving it absolutely everything that I had. And I remember thinking that at this point, I’ve done just over 40km, I can do this to the end.”

These are the words of Australian Paralympic champion Madison de Rozario, as she recounts what was going through her head in the final moments of her epic gold medal win in the T54 marathon in Tokyo.

In this week’s episode of The Leadership Lessons, Madison elaborates on what it took to get over that finish line in first place, to cement her place in Paralympic history.

She remembers how, coming down the last hill of the course, one of her competitors Manuela Schaer from Switzerland, was closing the gap on her lead.

“I remember taking one last look behind me. Realising she was definitely closing the gap, but I still had a little bit,” de Rozario says. “In the stadium, the commentary is so loud. I could hear the commentary saying that she was closing the gap on me.”

Madison says it was the sound of the small number of Australians in the stadium cheering her on that helped push her over the line.

“There weren’t that many of them, but they were so loud, they were just yelling at me through that last 300 metres,” she says.

de Rozario then hit a point where there were no more tactical decisions to make in the race, it was only about giving it everything she had left. In the end, she won the race by less than a second in an absolute nail-biter for all the Australians watching at home.

“You kind of just hand over control to your body to do everything that it needs to do. And thankfully, on that day, it was enough just to get me over that line first. One of the absolute highlights of my career.”

In the podcast, Madison tells Shirley Chowdhary about what’s it’s like to be a high-profile athlete, especially as someone with a disability, and why she takes her job as a role model so seriously.

“It excites me, and it also stresses me out a great deal. It definitely is a responsibility that I take very, very seriously,” she says. “I remember growing up and seeing Louise Sauvage, and she was the only person that looked like me.”

“There just weren’t many people who look like me and I’m very aware that there still aren’t that many and so I understand the impact that you can have when that spotlight isn’t shared as evenly as it should be.”

By the time she gets to the end of her sporting career, Madison says she’d love for her voice to not need to be as loud as it is right now. She wants to see others come into the space, as Paralympic sport rises in profile.

“There are so many others in that space, and I want different opinions to mine, and I want just so much variety and authenticity in all those opinions and voices. I think that’s so much more valuable than just several loud voices. As of right now though unfortunately that’s not the case.”

“I do recognise that that is a platform that I do hold. So that does come with a lot of responsibility because your words carry more weight than they deserve. I try to do that as authentically as possible, but also as considerately as possible.”

Madison de Rozario

Madison also reflects on the need for greater inclusion when it comes to people with disabilities, a group that is so often pushed to the sidelines in all facets of life. She says that growing up, she always felt the need justify the very space she took up.

“Your whole life is shaped by this kind of one identity that’s very much forced upon you,” she says.

“I would love just to see a generation of kids growing up never having to redefine the entirety of who they are, getting to learn who they are in all of their facets from the very beginning, rather than having to fixate on one because they’re told that that is who they are.”

You can hear more from Madison de Rozario in the latest episode of The Leadership Lessons, a Women’s Agenda podcast made possible thanks to the support of Salesforce. You can listen here, or subscribe via Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

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