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Watch Nancy Armstrong’s full remarks at the annual Women Who Empower Event

On Thursday, November 4, Armstrong joined Diane MacGillivray, senior vice president for university advancement, in a conversation about her film “The Disruptors,” and her own journey of discovery about ADHD.

By decoding ADHD for her family, a filmmaker helps many others

By decoding ADHD for her family, a filmmaker helps many others

Nancy Armstrong’s experience raising children with ADHD inspired her to create “The Disruptors,” a film about the neurodevelopmental disorder and the people who have it. She shared her story on Thursday at Northeastern’s annual Women Who Empower event. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

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Olympic gold medalist Madison Mailey: “I’m living the athlete’s dream”

Olympic gold medalist Madison Mailey: “I’m living the athlete’s dream”

Written by Madison Neuner

Madison Mailey, DMSB‘18, didn’t try rowing until her junior year of high school. “I was a dancer for 10 years,” she said. “It gave me a pretty good background of working hard.”

What she didn’t know at the time was that not really “fitting in” with the dance world - “I was so tall,” she said - gave her the opportunity to fall in love with rowing, and eventually become an Olympic gold medalist.

Mailey was a member of the nine-person Canadian boat - eight rowers and one coxswain - that won gold in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. But it wasn’t an easy feat for the team, or for Mailey.

Mailey qualified for the Canadian Olympic team in 2020. When the Games were postponed to 2021, Mailey had to train on her own to qualify a second time. “I felt a lot of pressure to make the Olympic boat again because I’d already done it once.”

She treated her seat races like the Olympic final, and pulled away with a coveted spot on the eight. Looking back, Mailey sees the extra year of training as a blessing in disguise.

“It reminded me of the love of the sport I had,” Mailey said. “It was a pretty cool time. And at the same moment, yes, the Olympics were canceled, but it gave me another opportunity to get a year stronger and fitter, and I think that really allowed us to win gold with the Olympics.”

Mailey had been motivated to row professionally since her first year of rowing. After narrowly missing the Junior National Team in 2013, she made the CanAmMex team. “I think it was kind of a shock that I made the CanAmMex team.” She competed in Mexico, America and Canada, her first time racing internationally. “It made me realize that I really wanted to compete with the maple leaf on my blades.”

Contrary to popular belief, Canadian rowers only have the opportunity to race with a maple leaf on their blades at World Championships at the Olympics. “They have a maple leaf ceremony the night before your heat, and you get your maple leaf from a coach or a previous rower who's had the privilege to race with a maple leaf on their blade. And I just looked at that and I said, ‘One day, I really want to race with that maple leaf on my blade.’”

Because of COVID-19, the team focused more on mental health than ever before. “We travel with a sports psychologist; that's really important now in all sports. And it's really good, it’s really changing. On all my team trips, like travel with the national team, we haven't brought a sports psych and we do now, and it’s really, really great to have her there.”

Mailey herself was an instrumental part of helping her teammates to be mentally prepared for the Olympic finals. Her pre-race talk was short, but powerful. The women repeated after her: “I am strong. I am so fit. I am so mentally tough. I am the fiercest competitor on the water.”

She certainly sees herself as a motivator. “I think my teammates all know me as a very, very positive, happy person.”

Her positive and motivated outlook has allowed Mailey to let her Olympic moment sink in, and look toward the future. What’s next for the gold medalist? “I've taken all my securities courses in finance, and I want to start working as a financial advisor.” And then, “see if rowing continues to be something I miss or something that I want to continue doing, because obviously Paris 2024 would be a wonderful experience.”

Mailey is not the only Northeastern student turned Olympian. Kendall Coyne Schofield ‘16  won silver (2014) and gold (2018) medals with Team USA Hockey. Schofield went to Northeastern for its hockey prowess, and it certainly didn’t let her down.

“While I was at Northeastern, I was able to accomplish my goal of becoming an Olympian,” she said. “I competed in multiple World Championships, but quickly realized how much more pressure there is to perform at the Olympic Games.”

Schofield recognizes the difficulty that women face in professional sport, and alleviating that difficulty is one of her major goals. “I am working hard every day so young girls can discover that dream of making a living playing professional hockey.”

Her other goal? “The 2022 Olympic team.”

Both Mailey and Schofield were able to learn from their experiences on the biggest stage in sports. But it’s not only about the medals; it’s also about believing in yourself.

“Follow your dreams, believe in yourself, be willing to put in the work it takes to accomplish your goals and dreams and always fight for your worth,” Schofield said.

Mailey echoed this. “Don't limit yourself often. You're the only one that is saying you can't do it. And then those other people that think you can't do it, use that as motivation to fuel yourself.”

Being an Olympian is a unique experience in so many ways, but one of those ways is that if you’re an Olympian one time, you’re an Olympian forever. So what is it like to wake up every day knowing you’re an Olympic champion?

“I feel very blessed,” Mailey said. “I feel like I'm living the athlete's dream. Being able to perform in the right moment, the right day, at the right time is very special. And the fact that I was standing on the podium with my eight best friends was something no one can ever take away from me. And singing the anthem while watching our flag getting raised was a moment I'll never forget.”

 

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