Olympic Gold for Madison Mailley

By Catherine Barr

Local athlete Madison Mailley has struck gold with her team's gold medal performance at the Tokyo2020 Olympic Games. Hear her story in this exclusive podcast interview.

She’s a successful athlete, singer and business graduate with a natural beauty and strength that sparkles, both inside and out. Madison Mailey is a Women’s Eight rowing champion and a gold medal Olympian that knows what it takes to be part of a winning team. Hear how she is conquering the world, and stealing hearts, one ‘bow’ at a time.


0:00 – Intro

1:30 – How did it all start? Who is Madison Mailey, gold medalist?

3:25 – ‘I’ve been surrounded incredible teammates and incredible coaches.’

4:15 – The trip to Tokyo. Competing as a team and the Olympic experience.

6:40 – ‘None of us could have done it without each other.’

7:10 – Competing as part of Team Canada. What was Team Canada’s reception in Tokyo?

7:55 – ‘Just wearing the maple leaf for Canada, we wore that leaf proudly.’

8:35 – Durig our What doeWhat do Y

9:30 – ‘We had to do a test everyday. We have to stay distanced. We tried to stay separated from other countries. We had to leave 24 hrs after our race.’

10:10 – ‘Normally you get to stay and have fun, so we got robbed of that a little bit. But we got to race and do what we love to do and that meant everything to me.’

10:40 – Teammate Maxwell Lattimer. Other team members had to watch the race from the village. Friend and family on FaceTime.

13:00 – Showing off the gold medal. People recognizing you in public as an Olympian. What does it feel like?

14:00 – ‘Everyone in my boat – I really trusted them. Everybody moving as one and bringing their own strengths. Everyone brought something different, something special.’

14:55 – ‘Redefine excellence, that was our mantra. It feels incredible to be an Olympian. If I could get one or two kids to pick up an oar and meet friends and travel the world and become better people then that would be worth it for me.’

16:00 – What do you do and eat to prepare for a race? What’s the hardest part?

17:55 – Are you gunning for the next Olympics in Paris in 2024?

19:25 – You’re planning a career in commerce, and you’re also a singer. Tell us Madison’s faves – music, food, fun. Tell us some of your secrets.

23:25 – Where do you see yourself in five years?

Catherine: Welcome everyone to the WestVancouver Magazine podcast. We are so excited to welcome the magnificent Madison Mailey. She is from West Vancouver/Lions Bay, and she is a rowing champion who now sports a gold medal from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the Women’s Eight. Madison, tell us how it all started?

Madison: In grade eight, I was choosing what sport to do, and I had signed up for the volleyball team. But when I came home, my mom encouraged me to do an outdoor sport. And my brother had just tried rowing the year before. And so they said, why not do the same thing as Brook? And so I went out there, and I pretty much instantly fell in love with the sport. I thought it was very fun. I love the idea of being with my friends, and I had so many laughs. That’s kind of how it started. And then I went to university in Boston. So that’s how I got my first taste of high-performance rowing. And now it’s the national team. So it’s been a journey.

Catherine: I want to point out here that Tokyo 2020 is not your first gold medal. You’ve got a 2017 and 2018 gold medal from the U23 World Rowing Championships. You have a silver medal from the World Rowing Championships, all in the Women’s Eight, so you’re kind of used to the podium, aren’t you?

Madison: I have had success on the world stage for sure. I’ve been surrounded by incredible teammates, and really good coaches. And yeah, I feel very thankful for the experiences I’ve had so far. We’ve had some success in the Canadian Women’s Eights and Fours. So it’s been a fun program to be a part of.

Catherine: Tell us what it was like travelling to Tokyo and being part of the Olympic experience?

Madison: We spent months in Japan [training]. We first flew to a city called Sagamihara – and we trained there before moving into the Olympic village. And the people were amazing. They were so kind, so generous, so polite. That was a big highlight for all of us – how welcoming they were. Then we had some really good times on the water. Lots of hard kilometres – then we started to taper a little bit (which is when you kind of back off training a little bit to get ready for competition). Then you move into the village. That was obviously a big highlight for everyone.

You know, when you’re an athlete, you really look forward to meeting other athletes and figuring out what the Olympic Village is like. Seeing the Olympic rings everywhere was crazy and just a dream come true. I really enjoyed that – moving in with all my teammates. We had worked so hard – and were just dreaming of these moments. Then being on a team. I couldn’t have done anything without the eight other people in my boat (on an Eight’s team, there’s eight rowers, plus a coxswain). None of us, especially through Covid, and not competing for two years prior, feel like we could have done it without each other. So it was a very big team effort.

Catherine: You’re part of a team when you row, but you’re also a part of a bigger team, meaning Team Canada. What was Team Canada’s reception like in Tokyo?

Madison: That’s one of my favourite things about competing for Canada – is just wearing the Maple Leaf and how much that means to every single Canadian competing for our country. I think we all try to represent our country in a way that’s fierce. We are very strong on the world stage. But we also respect our competition. And we are polite. Yes. So I think we have got a good reputation. And hopefully we wore that leaf proudly and represented Canada.

Catherine: What was it like during a ‘Covid’ Olympics. What were some of the restrictions they had?

Madison: I definitely enjoyed the experience. But there were lots of things that we had to do to stay safe and to just ensure we could compete. I think that was the biggest part. They wanted to make sure we could all compete and do what we had worked so hard to do. So I’m glad that we had all these protocols. But we had to do a spit Covid test every day we were in Japan. We had to stay within our crews. So within our larger team, we had to wear masks around everyone and not go into small rooms and try to stay distanced from people in different boats. And then when we were in the village, we couldn’t like ride around in the autonomous Tokyo cars.

We tried to just stay very separated from other countries. We had to leave [Tokyo] 24 hours after our race – it was very odd. Normally most athletes get to stay. We’re a ‘first-week’ sport. So most athletes get to stay for the whole second week and go to different events, meet people and have fun – you know, live the Olympic experience. And I think that got robbed from us. But at the end of the day, we got the opportunity to race and do what we love to do. And that honestly just meant everything to me.

Catherine: Your Canadian teammate (and rumour has it you’re also a pretty cute couple) is Maxwell Latimer – who is also a rower, and your boyfriend. He is a two time Olympian (Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020). So he’s got the lay of the land. But we were speaking to him during your photoshoot recently, and he said he couldn’t even go down to watch and cheer for [your] race – even though he was less than five minutes from the venue.

Madison: Yeah, it was very odd. Rowing isn’t a huge spectator sport. So it’s not like we’re in a stadium and we’re surrounded. So honestly, most of the racing felt quite normal – just hearing the other coxswains and not having anyone [cheering] in the last 500 metres wasn’t super odd. But normally, we have our teammates there. And normally, if we win a medal, or if we qualify, or if we have an exciting or bad race – our teammates are all there to support us. So it was really sad not having any of them in the grandstands. So yeah, Max watched me on Olympic television in Tokyo in the village. So it was very, very odd. But I got a really nice FaceTime [call]. He and all the other people on my greater team were just over the moon for us. So I felt so much love and support from them – and my wonderful family in Lions Bay. It was just so emotional Facetiming – just seeing their raw emotion and how excited they were. Very moving.

Catherine: When we took you down to the beach to do your photoshoot, it was so much fun watching everyone come up to you and congratulate you on your gold medal. People were so excited to see you and talk to you. You’re a celebrity now. What does that feel like? Was all the hard work worth it?

Madison: I think it felt validating. I definitely knew how good our boat was. I really trusted [my team]. And I really felt like we had eight people moving as one – and we’re all bringing our own strengths. So one of my favourite sayings is like, ‘you don’t get harmony unless you’re singing different notes’. And that was our boat. Like everyone brought something different. It was power, energy, quickness, humour. Everyone obviously knew how to roll and had the basics, but everyone brought something a bit special. Our goal wasn’t to be an Olympic champion or to win a gold medal. It was to ‘go as fast as humanly possible’ – and to redefine excellence. That was kind of our mantra, and I think we did that. I’m just so proud to have worked that hard and to have it pay off. Because I know a lot of other people worked super hard to be there as well and didn’t come home with a gold medal. I just respect everyone so much, but it feels incredible to be an Olympian. I feel like I’m in a very elite group of people that I think brings a great reputation to the name Olympian and likes to inspire. If I could get one or two kids to pick up an oar and try the sport and meet friends and travel the world and become better people – then that makes it worth it for me.

Catherine: What do you do to prepare for a race? What do you eat? What are your routines?

Madison: We definitely work with nutritionists. They make sure all our vitamins and minerals are correct. They ensure that we’re eating enough calories because we burn a lot of calories. Most [of us] eat around 4,000-5,000 calories, and the men are like 10,000 calories a day. So people are eating a lot of food to keep up with the training. We also take beta-alanine (a natural amino acid). We also take caffeine supplements. And when we’re racing, we take bicarbonate, which is kind of like baking soda – and it just helps the block lactic acid production, that burning in the muscles. So they have to educate us when we’re taking it all. And it’s all obviously legal and allowed. We’re very careful of supplements, so they’re not cross-contaminated or anything that’s banned. They drug test [us] often.

Catherine: The next summer Olympics are in Paris in 2024. Are you possibly thinking about going back to compete again?

Madison: I’m not sure 100%. It’s been a dream of mine to work with my dad [in finance] since I graduated from college. And so I’ve taken my Canadian Securities courses, and that’d be the path I’d like to go post rowing. But it is hard to not think about continuing rowing. I obviously love it. And I especially learned, throughout Covid, just how much I love being active and being on the water. And so it’s going to be very sad to step away from the sport, but we’ll just have to see how things go, of course.

Catherine: Tell us some of your favourite things. What are your hobbies? What music do you like? Tell us some secrets?

Madison: I have always loved to sing. If you ask all my teammates, their first memories are like me singing to myself walking down the street. I love music. My grandfather is a concert pianist, and he accompanied me through many voice vocal competitions. And I actually ended up studying music at Northeastern University with the New England Conservatory. I did a certificate program in performance studies with a focus on classical voice. So it was super funny me being this six-foot-tall blonde athlete and being surrounded by all these incredible musicians. They look at me like, ‘is she looking for the track’ or ‘is she supposed to be here’ (laughs). But I had a concert when I graduated Northeastern, and I invited like 50 people – and my [rowing] team ended up coming. My voice teacher was like, Oh, my gosh, and all these athletic women walked into my concert, and all their jaws were on the floor just seeing me sing in German and Italian and French. It was a different side of Madison. I think it adds to me as an athlete because I can take it down a notch and make it calm. I love that. I think mental composure is super big in sport. And being able to compose yourself is really important. So that’s kind of my music story.

I love listening to upbeat music and happy music. I listen to anything and everything. As long as it’s got some sort of beat. And then I guess another favourite – like most rowers, I do love to eat. Which is a good thing. We have to eat a lot of calories when training, for sure. But yeah, I love candy, dessert – I love steak, potatoes, anything. Max, my boyfriend, is actually just an incredible cook. He makes fresh sourdough. He’s really good at it. So he loves to cook, and then I’ll often ‘sous chef’ for him (laughs). We make some delicious food. So we may go to bed at like 8pm, but we do have a good time. We definitely work hard and then eat good food.

Catherine: Where do you see yourself in about five years?

Madison: I think I’ll be living in Vancouver or on the North Shore somewhere. And hopefully, you’ll see me up hiking or mountain biking and living a very active life. I hope to share my rowing story. I have lots of stories of resilience and teamwork – being able to get up when things are going wrong. And these past two years, things have gone wrong for a lot of people. And a lot of things went wrong for me as well. But I ended up being successful. And I think that there were key things that allowed us to be successful. So I hope to share that story.

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