Tokyo Marathon: Madison de Rozario looks to build on 2018 London Marathon win

The outspoken Australian sat down with the Olympic Channel Podcast to talk online harassment, body image and Tokyo 2020 plans.

It was a memorable way to mark a successful season but for Madison de Rozario’s mother it was the clear highlight.

“I remember after I won (the 2018) London Marathon. I was so surprised. I wasn’t expecting it. It was a huge shock.

“I get back to my phone at the hotel and I just have a text from my mum saying, ‘I can’t believe you met Prince Harry…’”

“I (had) just won my first major marathon but she’s just like, ‘But, Harry.’”

The meeting capped a year of incredible success which the wheelchair racer added to her three silver Paralympic medals.

She is determined to upgrade to gold at Tokyo 2020.

“Everything is building up to September 2020 - that’s the whole plan.”

Ahead of the first big test of the year, the Tokyo marathon, the Olympic Channel Podcast caught up with the outspoken Australian about body issues, social media harassment, and her Paralympic plans.

David Weir, Prince Harry and Australia's Madison de Rozario (R-L) after winning London Marathon 2018
David Weir, Prince Harry and Australia's Madison de Rozario (R-L) after winning London Marathon 2018David Weir, Prince Harry and Australia's Madison de Rozario (R-L) after winning London Marathon 2018

Tokyo Marathon

Before the competitors line up on the start line at Tokyo 2020, there will be two marathons in the Japanese capital for the competitors to familiarise themselves with the city.

“I think it’s a very similar course, so I am really excited to get out there and race it (to) get a feel of how the roads are going to look like leading into 2020.”

Madison has won three Paralympic silver medals in the 100m relay, the 400m relay and the 800m. But she’s dedicating her time to longer distances and has enjoyed even more success.

A world championship win at London 2017 in her favourite event, the 5k, was another highlight. Although, the big prize still alludes her.

I have never won a Paralympic gold medal… it is definitely something I want to do.

Unwanted messages

There is one part of Madison’s growing profile that she could do without: the unwanted social media messages.

De Rozario calls it harassment and has a clear message.

We don’t have to deal with these comments.

“If a friend tells you (that) you look beautiful today it makes you feel good. If a stranger does it, it’s so uncomfortable.

“There must be some weird disjoint between men and women where men genuinely believe that by calling women attractive we (will) take it as a compliment.

“If I can use my platform for one thing, it would be to teach girls that you never have to be passive in this.”

Australia's Madison de Rozario on online harassment

Australia's Madison de Rozario on online harassment

Fighting back

She’s confronted the situation head on. From time-to-time, she’s started to screenshot some of the messages and post them on her Instagram.

“People say, ‘Ignore them. It doesn’t benefit you to interact.’ But it does. It doesn’t benefit me to ignore it. There is this constant barrage of negative feedback and doing something with that is so much healthier than just ignoring it.”

“At first, I was doing it for my own validation. It was purely selfish because I felt uncomfortable and I wanted someone to tell me, ‘Hey, this person is being gross.’ And I would feel better about it.

“Then, I started getting a lot of messages from young women being like, ‘Oh, I thought I was the only one receiving these messages, I love how you handle this.’

“(It’s) probably my favourite use of my platform and it was so simple and so easy.”

Body image

Madison is keen to control the way she is represented and maintain a message that she is a strong, independent woman first.

But she is a unique position after losing the use of her legs aged four. She has been forced to confront any body issues early.

“On the one hand, as a person with a disability, there is nothing you can do to work on your body to make it ‘perfect’, or stereotypically how we want to view bodies.

“Then, on the other hand as an athlete, you have to have so much respect and love (for) your body. You need to work with it - to push it as hard as you want to push it.”

Madison de Rozario celebrates at Commonwealth Games 2018
Madison de Rozario celebrates at Commonwealth Games 2018Madison de Rozario celebrates at Commonwealth Games 2018

For her, it’s about being thankful for what you have rather than lusting after something that you want.

“The idea that we have of the perfect body is so narrow and so few people actually fit into it.

“It’s this unachievable, unrealistic goal that is so damaging.

“If all your body does is provide a home for you, then that is absolutely enough.”

Madison will push her body to the absolute limit as she competes in the Tokyo marathon this weekend.

Her positive message remains regardless of the result.

Madison de Rozario was this week’s guest on the Olympic Channel Podcast.

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