As a para-athlete she’s created history, but beyond the track Madison de Rozario has continued to use sport as a platform to champion bodily autonomy and show that disability doesn’t have to define you.
To cast your mind back to July of this year is to recall our Aussie athletes kitted out in the green and gold, taking to Birmingham for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The event produces many a story that spoke of incredible feats of strength and endurance, as well as the camaraderie that lies at the heart of sport, but nothing could top the achievement of Madison de Rozario as she completed a third major championships golden double with a win in the women’s T53-54 1500m and marathon events.
After opening the athletics program with a victory in the marathon, just five days later de Rozario was back on the track, this time needing to rely on sheer speed and power. For anyone else, a double-victory of such standing would be deemed impossible, a feat too great for a mere mortal to achieve alone. But if there’s one thing we know about de Rozario, it’s that she defies all expectation and once again, she stunned audiences to take the win with a time of three minutes, 53.03 seconds.
Looking back on the event and the incredible year de Rozario has had, it seems fitting that when it comes to our Women in Sport Awards, there’s no athlete more deserving of the title of ‘Athlete of the Year’ than de Rozario.
Accepting the award, de Rozario said: “Out of the line up of women that I’ve been able to be alongside, I just had no idea – especially being along the likes of Ash Barty. There were moments like this where it all comes together. Out on the track, you’re racing because you love it and you don’t think of the impact you might be having back home.
“For women’s sport, I couldn’t be more proud of every athlete in this room. I think we get to use this platform to do something that’s so much more important than racing or running a play. We’re all doing that, and to be part of that right now, we’re jumping through hoops right now and those that come after us aren’t going to have to do that.”
De Rozario first got her start in sport in wheelchair basketball, but as she’ll be the first to tell you, her ineptitude at the game and various other sports was so comical, it was ultimately what landed her in a racing chair. “I tried all different kinds of sports. I was terrible! I was super uncoordinated and it was an absolute fucking train wreck,” she says. There on the athletics track, de Rozario came to appreciate her body and its ability rather than its appearance. And consequently, it was in sport that she came to regain the bodily autonomy she lost by being a female disabled person in society.
Now, the four-time Paralympian boasts an incredible resume, making her Paralympics debut in 2008 before becoming the first Australian to win the London marathon in the women’s wheelchair event in 2018. She’s won two gold medals, three silvers and a bronze at the Paralympics. She’s won 10 medals at the World Para Athletics Championships and four gold at the Commonwealth Games. But while de Rozario has spent almost 15 years competing at an elite level, what drives her isn’t a relentless quest for accolades or sporting glory, but rather a desire to see progress across all aspects of society and sport at large.
What makes de Rozario an athlete of such phenomenal standing isn’t just her incredible sporting talent, but her drive to use sport as a platform to champion greater acceptance and appreciation of people with a disability, both in and out of the sports arena. It’s this passion that she reminds herself of constantly during gruelling training blocks and tougher races; an understanding that her why is far greater than just herself.
As de Rozario continues to push the limits of her own human potential, she’s also showing others that there are no labels that have to define you. Particularly for those with a disability where social stigmas continue to be prevalent across all manner of industries, de Rozario is creating change through positive action and example, and showing the strength and celebration that can be found in one’s own body.
Source @womenshealth.com.au: Read more at : womenalive.org