With just 53 days to the Olympics and 86 to the Paralympics more than 600 Australian athletes are absorbed in their preparations for Rio 2016. Madison de Rozario is one of those athletes. The sassy 22 year-old who began her international career as a 14-year-old at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics has seen a lot of changes since then.
Plagued by injury since that medal winning performance, de Rozario has had to undergo many changes – changes in the way she trains, changes in her diet, and equally important, changes in her personal life.
The move to Sydney for the extremely family orientated sandgroper was a big decision. The changes that entailed, which included living away from her sisters for the first time, were sacrifices de Rozario was willing to make for her sport. Her coach, the sporting icon Louise Sauvage, lives and operates out of Sydney and the immediate feedback has too many pluses to ignore.
Some of you who follow de Rozario on social media may have the impression she’s always relaxed and carefree, but don’t let that fool you. This young woman along with others vying for Paralympic spots, are serious athletes. They are dedicated and disciplined and their training regime is as intense as any other international athlete.
Speaking of de Rozario on social media, you’ve got to check out this fun article by Erin Byrnes on SBS.
Back to changes, one of the changes fans would be pleased to hear is Madison de Rozario is promising (again) to keep us posted on her progress and adventures via her blog. Here’s what she had to say:
Okay, so it’s mid 2016..
Alright. If we go back through my social media, I have apparently been promising an update on here for well over a year. As I look through the drafts on my laptop I see that I have started writing one around half a dozen times. So, here’s to lucky number seven.
Below is an excerpt from my blog attempt from this exact time last year – and I need you all to know that it still stands completely true.
‘Okay this update has been a long time coming and I absolutely apologise for the delay. I was planning on keeping everyone updated throughout the trip, but it all ended up being entirely overwhelming and I used my downtime to mostly sleep and recover – by sleep and recover I maybe mean build Lego and practice contouring with Angie.’
The only difference in twelve months is that this year the mini-figures are Disney and not Despicable Me characters and we’ve moved from contouring to highlighting. Progress is essential.
The last eighteen months have been full of a whole lot of changes – the biggest of which being moving to Sydney from Perth around this time last year. This was big. My family and my sisters are all still over on the west coast. Sydney is a scary city with too much traffic and lanes that are too narrow for trucks. This is a terrifying thought for a girl who is used to having all the space in the world, in my little Mazda, in our little and vastly empty city. Apparently the thought process of ‘it should take twenty minutes, I’ll allow twenty minutes to get there,’ doesn’t quite translate across the country. So after around six months of running catastrophically late for everything – apparently I am stubborn and too insistent that it should be east coast traffic that sorted itself out and not me – I sort of settled in. I am still late for everything. Just not catastrophically.
Then, there have been all the training changes. Constantly having a training partner and the immediate feedback from my coach made everything easier. Being forced to make it to training by seven every morning, however, is not as easy. Still a net positive, but it’s close.
This time last year, when we were playing with contouring and unwrapping far too many minions, we were also clocking world record times in Switzerland. Angie broke her first world record and quickly followed it with two more. Whilst I didn’t cross the line first in any of those sub world record races, I wasn’t too far off. Twice I crossed the line third – in both the 800m and 5000m – both under the previous standing world record, and if nothing else, they were fairly reasonable personal best times.
I think leaving Switzerland last year was kind of intimidating. While I might have been pushing the quickest I ever had so were a lot of other people. A lot. I might have crossed the line before others but it wasn’t like anyone was far behind. At that point I don’t think I had ever seen the women’s field so strong or so competitive (this is strange to look back on. Coming back from that same trip this year that field is again stronger and even more competitive).
By this point World Championships was coming up very quickly. Far too quick. I feel like when we’re constantly working on changes – whether big ones, or the minute ones we play with every session until we perfect – any big competition feels like it’s coming up too quick. You get into your routine of training and seeing these tiny changes and the very last thing you want to do is have to pause it – even if it is to compete. You know, the thing that you make all these tiny changes for.
Yet, October rolled around, as it was always going to, and we were off to another World Championships. This one felt different. Our entire team had undergone a few changes and all of us were a little wound up. So many of us had made significant improvements but I’m not sure any of us were really ready for the pressure that would accompany that. It’s kind of fun getting faster in training until you come to the competition where you actually have to prove it. Great in theory. Terrifying in practice.
This was the first time I was going into a major competition without an injury. I felt great about it, but, as I realised once we were settled, it also meant I had nothing to fall back on. In the past, if I performed badly there were always reasons. Maybe reasons I’d never vocalise, but reasons I was aware of, and my team around me was aware of.
Before I even began my events, my roommate had won a gold medal. If that isn’t stressful, I’m not actually sure what is. First up was my 1500m. I was a ball of stress. I had never been so anxious before a race – but you go through the process. You pack your bags, drink a million espressos and get on a bus. Pretty standard procedure. You go through your warm up routine, and that’s great, because you don’t have to think. You know how to warm up and even you can’t mess that up at this point. But then you end up in call. Which is just a horribly cruel forty five minutes where you’re forced to think about all the awful things that could go wrong once you get out onto the track – which, given forty five minutes is a very long list.
Anyway. I will not walk you through my internal monologue here. We eventually got out onto the track, and I was still so anxious. I had no idea how to deal with it. I’m usually calm by this point and fairly ready to race. Instead, I waited not so patiently for my name to be announced with the camera, where you have to wave or act fierce or whatever it is you’re meant to do on a start line. I was neither calm nor fierce, so instead, when the camera reached me and the cameramen were trying to be all encouraging, what do I do? I throw up in my mouth. Oh yes. There’s not a lot of ways to deal with this situation when there’s a camera dramatically zooming in on your face and displaying it on the massive screen you can see from the corner of your eye. So you know. You tell yourself that the quicker you finish these four laps, the quicker you can rinse your mouth and pretend this never happened. I don’t actually remember the details of this particular race, I know that I won and qualified for the final the following day, and that is all that is important.
By the next morning I was much more calm with none of the stupid anxieties of the previous day. I made it out to the track with no drama – a little easier with Angie making the same final and having someone to go through the process with. The race was a race. I don’t remember any of the specific details until the last stretch where I made a totally amateur mistake and lost my silver medal position and ended up settling for bronze. Not ideal, but that is racing.
Then the 800m! Getting through the prelims was easy enough. The final start list, however, was scary to look at. I think every athlete on the line had won major medals. There were athletes I had never beaten before. Oh, and there was Angie – my roommate and of course the girl who held the world record in this event. On top of that, the 800m is my shortest event and there’s very little room for error in those two laps. It’s the event that overlaps the sprinters with the longer distance athletes, which means you’re throwing in girls who can outsprint me from a start with their eyes closed, which isn’t the most fun. I still don’t actually have the words to describe this race, so I’m just going to attach the video below.
Pretty sure my face when I cross the line sums up how I felt and still feel about that particular race.
Anyway. The 5000s rounded out the Championships where I ended placing fourth. I wasn’t about to complain. It’s a strong field and it was an incredibly close finish.
Which leads us to right now. We’ve just come back from an overseas trip where we got to play with a lot of the girls who will be in Rio in a few months. It’s always interesting seeing where everyone is at, and more importantly where you are at when it comes down to actually racing.
There is work to do, but there is always work to do, and those tiny changes to keep playing with. I’m excited about having nothing else to focus on over the last few months here in Australia. Once again, however, racing is coming up far quicker than any of us want it to.
The blog “Okay, so it’s mid 2016..” first appeared on www.madisonderozario.com.
Please do visit Madison de Rozario on her website and while you’re there take a look at her digital art page. She hand sketches images that captures her attention, scans it into her computer, then “paints” them to bring them to life. She obviously has other talents.