CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — Paige Madden is used to overcoming adversity and competing on the global stage. She won a gold and a silver two years ago at the World University Games after tearing her meniscus.
However, the UVA swimmer’s path to Tokyo was a rollercoaster ride that included the high of winning national titles and the low of battling COVID-19.
“Definitely when it first happened, I was just devastated,” Madden said. “I immediately told myself, ‘well you know, I’m done. My season is over, everything is out the window. Like no way I’m making the Olympic team.’ I didn’t even know if I’ll make it to trials.”
The Cavaliers rising senior soon realized she may be overreacting.
“That was a bit dramatic,” Madden said. “And then the next couple of days, I kinda had to settle down and get my headspace right.”
Madden had just won three individual NCAA titles as well as a relay victory to lead Virginia to its first national championship. Then she contracted COVID-19, with just two months before the Olympic Trials.
“Mainly it was the respiratory issues, just breathing,” Madden said. “I’m a swimmer. My lungs are probably my most important organ and the fact that they’re not working exactly how they were before was really frustrating.”
After a few weeks, Madden felt better than ever. Then, at the trials in Omaha, she was swimming better than ever, doing enough to make her first U.S. Olympic Team.
“If anybody could get COVID two months ago and still be very successful after that, it was gonna be Paige,” Virginia head swimming coach Todd DeSorbo said. “She’s just the type of athlete that has put in so much hard work, over the last year and really the last four years, that that was going to carry her through.”
Madden will swim two events, the 400m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay, in Tokyo and is already thinking about what it’ll be like to compete with the world’s best.
“I really want to take it all in so I think visualizing beforehand will help me do that,” said Madden.
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