Para-athlete from Avon will compete in long jump and the 100-metre dash
Friday, August 23, 2019
By Rob J. Ross
AVON, ON. - A four year wait for Madison Wilson-Walker is over.
The 22-year old para-athlete from Avon is at her first Parapan Am Games, beginning today until September 1, in Lima, Peru.
Wilson-Walker competes in long jump, Tuesday, August 27th and the 100-metre dash, Wednesday, Aug. 28.
"It feels really good to be able to represent Canada. I'm super excited," said Wilson-Walker, prior to flying out with Team Canada earlier this week. "It feels really good making the team after battling injuries."
Over the past two to three years, injuries have plagued the blade runner, who trains with the London-Western track and field club.
"I had a dislocated knee and tore my hip flexor and that led to me not being able to perform to the best of my ability," Wilson-Walker said. "In my second year of university (Disability studies at Western), I went through a rough year with my mental health. Now that I bounced back, I'm healthy. It feels really good."
Returning to form similar to her days at Lord Dorchester Secondary School, winning multiple OFSAA gold medals, Wilson-Walker had no issue meeting Parapan Am Games qualifying standards for her class (P62) earlier this year.
"Right from the first meet of this season I was able to be better than those standards," said Wilson-Walker. I was focusing on my training and putting more of an effort in to the little things, like my sleep, nutrition, proper recovery time, treatment and taking my rest days more seriously. That's helped me perform better this year."
Setting a world record in long jump (4.29 metres) was unexpected, but certainly caught the attention of Team Canada.
"That helped a lot for me getting on the team," Wilson-Walker said. "I was really surprised and to see my hard work paying off, it does feel really good.
"I don't think it really has hit me, because when I tell people I have a world record, they ask, why am I so relaxed about it. It's cool to me to have it, but there's room for me to improve."
The ParaPams will be Wilson-Walker's second major international meet, after attending the World championships in 2015 (sixth, 400 metre run). The Games were in Toronto that same year, but without the category for her events.
Stronger mentally and physically and back in form, Wilson-Walker is realizing a dream of four years ago with a new attitude towards practice and her results.
"When I was battling my mental health challenges I saw a sports psychologist, at Western University. Talking with her about things that were going on really helped," said Wilson-Walker. "It's having more fun with training. I was really hard on myself at training, especially if I didn't perform well."
Wilson-Walker also credits her boyfriend, para-athlete Nathan Riech.
"I'm able to talk with him if I have any thing going on," Wilson-Walker said. "He's got me into reading a lot. I like to read sports physiology and self help books."
Wilson-Walker will be cheering on Riech, the world record holder in the 800 and 1500 metre runs, before competing herself.
"The nerves haven't hit me yet. I don't tend to get nervous any more at meets," she says. "The biggest goal is always jump or run a personal best and break my world record in long jump.
"More importantly, be proud of the result no matter what it may be and taking in the whole experience."
CBC will be live streaming events.
Follow Wilson-Walker on twitter, @Madiewx2.
Lima will serve as a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, but it is not the only qualifier of those Games.