By Bob Schaller//Contributor | Tuesday, October 31, 2017Madisyn Cox knows how to seize the moment. A close miss at Olympic Trials and frustration overcoming an injury didn’t keep the University of Texas product from stepping up at Worlds -- twice. She first ran down the competition in the last 50 of the 200 IM to make the podium, and then was called upon unexpectedly to swim in the 4x200 relay -- despite narrowly not qualifying for it -- to help the US to another gold medal. She talks about her journey, and how the team is what made Hungary so special, in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. Surprised at all at how nearly perfect Worlds went for you?
Madisyn: I was very happy with it but I wouldn’t say I was surprised -- and I do not mean that in a conceded way; I know I can be even faster. What I’m thankful for is the hard work is coming through.
2. What was training camp like before Worlds with Stanford and World head coach Greg Meehan?
Madisyn: Training camp was great. I loved the training environment. I got to train with Stanford in March a little bit so it was nice to train with Greg again. I was in a good group. Melanie Margalis was among those I trained with who was also awesome.
3. So did you imagine a scenario where you scored two medals at Worlds?
Madisyn: I was one-track minded with the 200 IM. I didn’t know about the relay until the night before -- I got a text and that’s when the prep began.
4. Having not trained for that since before Trials, where you also focused on your rising 200 breaststroke, how do you get ready the night before?
Madisyn: Being an IMer it’s about all the strokes, so it wasn’t like I hadn’t been training freestyle if not specifically the 200. When the coaches asked me, I was ready for it.
5. How cool to unexpectedly be on a really for Team USA?
Madisyn: I was definitely honored to represent the US -- and to do it on a relay as well was even better. But I was nervous. It had been a day since I swam the IM so I hadn’t done the best preparation in the pool. I hadn’t checked out -- I had it in the back of my mind that there’s always a chance you could be called upon, so I thought about it, just in case. I always train freestyle when I am in my most tired state, so I knew I could still swim freestyle. The relay swim was fun. Maybe if I had more practice in it I would’ve been better because I went out a little fast -- and (National Team Director) Frank (Busch) had said to take it out a little slow. I was just (laughs) a little too eager and let the excitement got to me a bit more than I should have
6. Obviously in the IM you wanted that best swim since you made the team, but what was the goal?
Madisyn: I went in knowing I wanted to get a medal for the United States. It’s one thing going to the meet and doing a best (time), but winning a medal and helping the team -- that’s what the goal is.
7. So did you view yourself as a medal contender?
Madisyn: I remember after World Trials talking to (Texas head coach and 2017 WUGS head coach) Carol (Capitani). She said, “You can really get a medal at Worlds.” That was the first time it clicked. It was like a challenge in a way -- time to step up. I was like, “I’m going to get a medal.” I was one-track minded after that.
8. It looked like earlier this year you could’ve made the team in the 200 breaststroke and the 200 free instead of, or in addition to, the 200 IM -- but to pull out a relay 200 free like that at Worlds, what does it tell you about your swimming?
Madisyn: I do have seasons where there are ebbs and flows. I saw improvement in my (200) breaststroke and (200) freestyle, I really don’t remember what it was that made me feel like my 200 free was coming along well -- I didn’t swim it that many times. I swam it once at the Arena Pro Swim Series in the prelims and then at Worlds. But I know my freestyle was feeling good. And at Worlds in the (200) IM, that last 50 of my freestyle was pretty crucial for me.
9. You were just mentally so strong and confident, weren’t you?
Madisyn: Well, I was prepared to do my best. I was ready and confident. That’s when you swim best, what you are confident in what you are doing.
10. You mentioned training with the Stanford people on the World team, what was that like?
Madisyn: It was good training with Katie, Simone and Lia. I was able to do a lot of my work with Katie so it was a familiar environment because everyone was already friends, so we had a little (laughs) reunion thing going on, being together again. But you also get that great competitive nature within the practices and the training. It’s fun, and good to mix things up.
11. You mentioned training with Greg and the Stanford women before, when was that?
Madisyn: This was in March at the OTC (Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs) with them right after NCAAs. It was a National Team camp and Greg was the head coach and it was mostly Stanford girls. I also got to train with Kelsi Worrell.
12. Kelsi gets the training done too, doesn’t she?
Madisyn: Yes -- training with her, that was awesome. Kelsi is such a nice person, someone you always root for and are so happy to see her do so well.
13. Who else on the Worlds team stood out in that way?
Madisyn: So many that I could mention. Honestly, Katie Meili. One of the most motivating swims was her 100 breaststroke -- not that anyone was rooting against Yulia (Efimova), but for Team USA we had Lilly (King) going for the world record and Katie to get to the wall for silver. I still get chills thinking about it. What an incredible effort and inspiration Katie gave us all. And like Kelsi, she’s one of those (veteran) swimmers who is such a great person inside and out, and a captain on the team. Not a mean bone in her body, never says a bad thing about anyone -- just a great role model and leader. You want to see someone like that do well and for the US to go 1-2 with Lilly continuing to be so amazing, that was great.
14. You mentioned training with Katie Ledecky, how do you describe that -- is it as impressive as everyone says?
Madisyn: Oh yes, Katie is a monster! An absolute monster! She does things that nobody can do. There’s a reason she’s the best in the world. Yes, of course there’s some talent involved but that girl is all hard work -- she puts in the work.
15. What about the other two Stanford teammates?
Madisyn: Simone and Lia are two of my closest friends. They provide that great environment to train hard, because that is the focus. But they make the best of it, and it is enjoyable because of their great personalities.
16. Did you know Simone since you both grew up in Texas before going to college?
Madisyn: We kind of swam different events but being from Texas I had seen her around. But I never really knew her until I was at training camp this March where we became friends. We just kind of clicked right away.
17. What makes Simone so unique and such a tough competitor?
Madisyn: Simone is a great person. It’s funny because she’s so lighthearted and funny when you talk to her, but you can see that fire in her. Something sets her off when it’s time to go and you can literally see that competitiveness in her -- she’s so fierce and competitive. I remember we saw Sarah Sjostrom set a (100 free) record, and that could be intimidating, but Simone steps right back up in the finals (of the 100 free) and wins. And she knew she was going to win -- she wasn’t going to let anyone beat her. Just that unshakable confidence is really cool, and infectious. She embraces those moments where she has to step up like that.
18. Lia Neal -- also made history in Rio, becoming the first African American to win medals in two Olympics -- she’s also unique, isn’t she?
Madisyn: Lia Neal, oh my gosh, I love her! I could talk about her all day. She is just so wonderful to be around. She’s such a great teammate. I think the world of her as a person. She and Simone -- I just love them both so much.
19. Your 200 IM swim, you had to bring in the last part of the final 50 to make the podium, what did that feel like?
Madisyn: It was definitely a good feeling. That’s a key moment of any race, either being caught or catching people-- and it’s always better to be on the latter side of that. Being caught it’s defeating, and you often know you have nothing left in your tank. So you get that much more confidence when you come up and catch someone -- that fuels you even more. I saw the girl who was in second on the side of me -- that’s all I could see, so I didn’t even know I had medaled when I touched the wall. All I knew was that I was going to finish as strong as I could and put my hand on the wall as fast as I could.
20. You mentioned the 200 IM medal being a goal going in, how emotional was it after all you overcame the past two and a half years?
Madisyn: It was emotional but more a relief that the hard work had paid off. I had seen myself there before. I do my visualizations so that nothing surprises me. I never go into a race thinking I shouldn’t medal, I was thinking all along that I would do it, that I should medal. So that was great. I was honored more than anything to do it for my country, I think that’s where the emotion came from, because I am so proud to represent the United States.