Mobile’s Paige Madden, the former UMS-Wright and University of Virginia standout, had her first Olympic moment Sunday night, taking part in the 400-meter freestyle finals at the Tokyo Olympics, finishing seventh in the field.
Australia’s Ariarne Titmus claimed the victory and the gold medal by edging Madden’s U.S. teammate Katie Ledecky in a closely contested competition. Titmus finished in a time of 3:56.69 while Ledecky finished at 3:57.36. Ledecky wins the silver medal and she has five other events in which she will compete in the Tokyo Olympics.
Madden’s time was 4:06.81. China’s Li Binge won the bronze medal with a time of 4:01.08.
On Wednesday, Madden returns to the pool as part of the U.S. 4×200-meter freestyle relay team in hopes of earning an Olympic medal.
Having led the way for her University of Virginia team’s NCAA swimming national championship this spring, Madden turned her attention to making another the U.S. Olympic team a few weeks ago, and she was, of course, successful.
The former UMS-Wright and City of Mobile Swim Association standout qualified for the Olympic team in Tokyo in the 400-meter freestyle and the 4×200 freestyle relay team.
Madden, 22, picked up her first Olympic spot when she finished second behind Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky in the 400-meter freestyle final. Madden swam a personal best 4:04.86, finishing behind Ledecky’s 4:01.27.
Later she finished third in the 200-meter freestyle final behind winner Ledecky and runner-up Allison Schmitt, who finished one one-hundredths of a second ahead of Madden. That finish qualified Madden for the 4×200 freestyle relay team.
After winning her place on the Olympic team in the 400-meter race, Madden was asked in a press conference how she felt.
“I kind of feel the same,” she said. “But having you say that [I’m on the Olympic team], I know that’s what has happened, I just don’t think it has sunk in yet. I don’t know if it ever will. It’s really special though, and I’m really happy about it.”
Asked to describe her emotions, Madden, who was named the Most Valuable Swimmer at the Atlanta Coast Conference Championships and the NCAA Championships this past spring, said she was caught by surprise.
“Actually, I was in shock and I’m still in shock,” she said. “I didn’t expect to make [the Olympic team] in that event [400 meters]. I knew I would have to control my emotions; I was very happy and I celebrated a little bit, but I knew I had to calm down. I was really trying to be relaxed. I tried my best and just staying relaxed was the best thing for me.”
While in high school at UMS-Wright, Madden set record after record, including seven state records in the 50-yard, 100-yard, 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle, 100-yard butterfly, 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard IM. She was a two-time NCSA Junior champion in the 400-meter freestyle and was a Speedo Senior National swimming medalist as a senior and a Junior National medalist as a freshman, sophomore and junior.
She earned AHSAA state titles in 11 events and she was a multiple-event Mobile County champion and City of Mobile Swim Association champion. She has been inducted into the CMSA Hall of Fame and was named Swimmer of the Year and Aquatic League champion.
Madden qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2016 but did not make the team at that time.
At Virginia, she made her presence known right away as a freshman, winning the 200-meter backstroke and earning a spot in the NCAA Championships that year. As a sophomore, she finished among the top four swimmers in all three events in which she was entered in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships. She placed second in the 200-meter and 500-meter freestyle events and was fourth in the 200-meter freestyle. She was also on Virginia’s ACC championship 800-meter freestyle relay team that season.
That year she also advanced to the NCAA Championships, finishing second in the 500-meter freestyle and fifth in the 200-meter freestyle. She also placed 10th in the 200-meter backstroke event.
It was at this past spring’s ACC Championships and NCAA Championships when Madden really stepped — or swam — into her own. Named the Most Valuable Swimmer at the ACC Women’s Swimming Championships, Madden won three individual events and was part of Virginia’s winning freestyle relay team.
That sent Madden and the Cavaliers to the NCAA Championships, where they came away with the national championship and Madden had another outstanding meet. She placed first in the 500-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle and 1,650-yard freestyle events and was also a part of the 800-yard freestyle relay team.
Aside from her college-level, high school-level and other competitions, Madden has also participated in the 2018 Summer Nationals and the 2019 World University Games.
Here is a Lagniappe feature on Madden prior to her performance in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha.
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