IN THE FAST LANE
Despite clinching gold, silver and bronze medals in the water, Australian backstroke swimmer Madison Wilson has her feet planted firmly on the ground.
Swimming is a numbers game. Championships are decided by split seconds, medals by mere inches. But to Madison Wilson – a young swimmer who took gold and silver medalist at the 2015 World Aquatics championships – age is one number that means nothing at all.
Since making herself known in 2014, Wilson has finished within the top-10 of her category every year. With multiple medals around her neck and a mature outlook that belies the candles on her cake, it’s clear that experience doesn’t always beat determination in this sport. While the former is measured in years, the latter is calculated by character. And Wilson brings that by the bucket load.
KNOW WHAT’S IMPORTANT
Indeed, this sprint specialist is perhaps best known for her efforts outside of the world of starting pistols and stopwatches. Wilson dedicates much of her time to helping young people – “Giving back to the community that supports me really well.” – at a hospital near her hometown. “When I stand behind the block representing Australia, I know that everyone is supporting me and will have my back forever. So when I go back home, I am really glad to give something back.”
You’d think swimming at an elite level would mean there’s no room in Wilson’s schedule for anything else, especially when you’re considered by many to be the swimmer to watch in a country that’s bred some of the sport’s best. But she manages to find time out of the fast lane. And finds that keeping occupied elsewhere can actually become a welcome counterpoint.
“Trying to fit it all into one week, as well as training and everything else, can be stressful. But they’re things I really enjoy – my studying and volunteering at the children’s hospital are like a relief to me,” says Madison.
FIND A BALANCE
It’s an essential contrast to the intensity of training. “At 4.07am, my alarm goes off, I prepare a quick snack and head to the pool,” says Wilson. “By 5.15am I’m in the water for a two hour session. After breakfast, I’m in the gym.” Between this and the afternoon pool session, Wilson carves out time for yoga, core exercises and studying for anywhere between one and three hours.
It’s little wonder Wilson has managed to keep a mature perspective on the sport that takes up the majority of her life. “Doing the charity work helps me understand that swimming isn’t everything – it’s just a sport,” she says. “This keeps me relaxed.”
Not that pressure never comes knocking. “In Rio 2016, I had more pressure on me because I’d performed well at the World Championships the year before,” says Wilson. “I prefer racing as the underdog.” It’s a refreshing mindset that can keep even the best athletes grounded.
Remember what’s important. Find your balance. Never let success go to your head. Worldly lessons from such a young star. “That’s a mindset I want to continue – not thinking of myself as something so big. No matter how successful I become.”