Date: 8th March 2021

Olympic hopeful Maddie Coates, who in 2019 started in the Change the Game Women’s Gift behind scratch, believes that the events of 2020 will make this year’s Powercor Stawell Gift even better as the athletics community gets behind the iconic Easter carnival.

“The history behind Stawell is like no other, the atmosphere that is created there year after year truly is something you have to experience to understand. The amazing energy that surrounds that track lifts every racer who steps foot on the field. But this year the 2021 Powercor Stawell Gift will be even more powerful and overwhelming following harsh lockdowns which in turn has created a new-found appreciation for many things like racing.” 

Living through the lockdown as well as coming back from a serious injury, Maddie is now back out on the track and “soaking up every last feeling and experience out there.”

“I look to running to the best of my ability and setting my goals high on the 200m Olympic qualifying time of 22.80. After our season wraps up in Australia I will hopefully be travelling overseas if we are permitted. Beyond this I will continue to put the work in to become the strongest version of myself mentally and physically. In order to reach my goals of competing in the Commonwealth Games in 2022 as well as the World Championships and experiencing my first Diamond League meeting.”

As with many Victorians, training during strict lockdowns was challenging for Maddie but in the end she feels it has made her stronger.

“I think Victoria has been very unfortunate with the lockdown restrictions given that we were without gyms and pools, were unable to travel to tracks to train and had no access to physiotherapy for recovery. Yes, it has been tough but like anything we find ways to adjust to the circumstances and it posed as just another challenge in the journey towards becoming the best athlete I can be. If anything, this lockdown has taught me so much about myself and has made me stronger and more adaptable.”

This resilience allowed her to get through a gruelling recovery process in 2020. “My main focus became learning how to take everything day by day. I’m not going to sugar coat what I was going through at the start of last year, it was the lowest point of my life. Not only was I facing a huge injury that made every race almost unbearable to run because of the pain but I had what I thought was the expectations of making the Olympics on my shoulders. The pressure I had placed on myself to accomplish a dream I have had ever since I was seven years old was enormous.

“2020 for me was a year filled with rebuilding not only physically but mentally as well. Realising how important mental health is for growth and reaching out for assistance was the best decision I have ever made.”

And Maddie has some sage advice for young athletes.  “The most important thing is to focus not only on your physical strength that is required from the sport but make sure you aren’t neglecting your mental health. It’s so much more important in our sport than we seem to realise.

“The most common question I am asked by young followers and fans is how to deal with performance anxiety and the feeling that the pressure is too much. My advice is to just really dial things back and focus on why you started running and what it made you feel. We start this sport because running makes us happy and takes us to our most relaxed state. We do it for ourselves and because we love it, it’s not for anyone else or to beat anyone else.”

While Maddie admits there are plenty of up and coming athletes, on the pro circuit this year she favours Zoe Neale “as she was tearing up the track at Parkdale” and Hannah Duynhoven “who’s been performing very consistently in all the pro meets lately and I see her passion and motivation is as strong as ever.

“I also have to mention my new training partner Karlee Bailey, a weapon out of the blocks and someone who has so much desire to make history.”

Despite her success on the track, pro running will always hold a special place in Maddie’s heart.  “It is somewhere I always experience the fun in what I love to do and that is run. Pro running is an enjoyable place no matter how fast you are running and or what form you are in. There are no expectations. We are all there because we love running and because we love a challenge.

“After I returned to track from the Commonwealth Games, I felt a lot of pressure to run well for my club which could be uncomfortable (to live up to that expectation). I used pro running to my advantage through this stage to build my confidence back and find the enjoyment in the sport once again. For so many reasons pro running has such a bright future as it helps so many people at different stages and progressions in the sport.

“Pro running can consume a lot of our lives, and for that reason the sport will continue to bring all of us like-minded people together to make lifelong friends.”

Comments are closed.