Madison Wright, 15, is one of the best swimmers in the state and is about test herself in one of the biggest competitions of her young career. Wright, who is nicknamed “Maddie,” will compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. in the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly events next week. Preliminaries for the 100 butterfly are taking place on Monday, June 25 (6:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network) and the 200 butterfly preliminaries are being held on Thursday, June 28 (2:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network). The finals for each event will air in prime time on NBC at 8 p.m. those same days. This is just the latest step for this Waterford Kettering High School student-athlete who won two Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 state championships last November and has been swimming with the Kingfish Aquatics of Waterford swimming club since she was 10-years-old. As a result, she now holds numerous state records in addition to competing in national events such as the Speedo Jr. National Championships in California in 2010 and 2011 and in Grand Prix events against U.S. National Team members and Olympians. Last year, she was named to the U.S. Junior National Team and is currently ranked No. 27 nationally in the 200 butterfly. Wright hopes this year’s Olympic Trials will give her valuable experience as she has her sights set on gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She spoke with the Spinal Column Newsweekly just before departing for Omaha to talk about her goals for the Olympic Trials, how she stays successful yet grounded, and which Olympic swimmer she looks up to.
You’re about to leave to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. What goes through your mind knowing that you’re going to be competing on the same stage as some of the top swimmers in the country? What are your goals heading into the event and how would this qualify as a successful trip to you?
MW: I’ve swam with Olympians before at Grand Prixs and they’re all really nice people. I’ve competed against them. But, it’s really just kind of a big honor to kind of be in the same pool and share the same deck with them, so I’m really excited.
My goals are basically to just drop (my) time and possibly make it back for semi-finals, which would be amazing, and to make the USA National Youth Team. That’s if I (place) in the top 2 for (age) 18 and under, then I get to go to Hawaii to compete at the (2012 Junior Pan-Pacific Games) in August.
Last November, you took the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 state titles in the 200 freestyle and the 100 butterfly as a freshman. How important was it for you to win those titles while representing Waterford Kettering?
MW: It was very important because Waterford Kettering and Mott united. It was my first year on the team and they haven’t really gotten a lot of recognition, so kind of getting their name out there and my name out there, as well, is a really big deal for us.
A lot of kids enjoy swimming growing up, but then there are those that go the extra mile and accomplish what you have so far. Where does your drive and passion for swimming come from? What would you say was the breakout moment that really jump-started your swimming career?
MW: I swam ever since I was little and it always just felt really natural to me. I just decided that I wanted to compete. I’m really competitive and I just decided that I wanted to actually start racing people and I love it. (Growing up with two older brothers) definitely helps.
(My breakout moment) was probably when I joined my club team, Kingfish Aquatics. I joined when I was about 10 and ever since I joined, my times have just been dropping and I’ve just been seeing a lot of success in my swimming.
We understand you train seven days a week, three hours a day and do doubles during the summer and over holiday breaks. How were you able to balance your training, competitions and studies during the school year? Are there any instances where you feel overwhelmed by trying to balance so many things at once?
MW: It’s quite a challenge because swimming is just so energy draining and it’s just very hard, but sometimes I do have to stay up until 1 a.m. studying or sometimes I’ll have to skip dry land, which is part of my workout, so I’ll have time to study for a test the day before. Yes, it’s difficult, but I manage.
(Yes, I feel overwhelmed sometimes) and those are moments where you kind of need to take a break because with swimming, there are physical aspects and mental aspects. It’s very mentally draining so sometimes I’ll take a day off just to kind of gather myself together.
You’ve also competed in Grand Prix events against Olympians and U.S. National Team members. When did you decide to make the jump to compete in national events and did you feel any hesitation at first? What did it mean to you to be named to the U.S. Junior National Team and to train in Colorado Springs?
MW: I decided to do that because I really just wanted to take it to the next level. I want to travel and I want to swim in different countries and meet new people and coaches and I had no hesitation at all. I was all for it.
The 200 butterfly is my best and favorite event ever. It just comes very naturally to me. It’s just something I’m good at.
(When I went to California), I enjoyed meeting a ton of new swimmers who were like me. I made so many new friends from different states and I enjoyed competing with them and it was just a really good experience.
(Being named to the Junior National Team) was amazing. Just to be on that team with so many amazing swimmers my age and older, it was really an honor to be considered an elite athlete.
You’ve accomplished so much early in your young career, including setting 14 state records, one central zone record and one National Age Group record. How do you avoid getting a big head and becoming complacent with your accomplishments? Who would you say is a swimmer that you try to mold yourself after?
MW: My teammates don’t hold me down, but they just keep me grounded because they’re just really supportive. I know not to get cocky because it’s rude and my parents also taught me not to. So I try not to get a big head about that stuff.
(My swimming role model is) probably Natalie Coughlin because I think she’s amazing. She’s a backstroker, butterflyer and I follow her on Twitter. She’s so focused all the time. I think that it’s her job. It’s amazing. I’ve met her before and she’s really sweet. I really like her.
After you return home from the Olympic Trials, what are your plans for the summer and the remainder of the year? What are your goals for your future in swimming and do they include winning an Olympic medal?
MW: After I come back from trials, I’ll have a month before I go to nationals in Indiana, so I’ll keep training. I’ll probably do doubles for that and I’ll just work really hard to better my times at that meet. And then after nationals in the summer, I’ll probably take a break. And after my break, I will continue working out for the next Olympic trials. I’ll also return to Kingfish Aquatics, as well. Oh yes, my future goal is to make the Olympic team and to win a gold medal in 2016.