Lawrence busts out at Summer Games Winnipeg athlete bounces back from eye surgery to set heptathlon record
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Less than a year ago Madisson Lawrence was stuck in bed for two months.
A freak accident last September forced the University of Manitoba Bisons track and field star to have eye surgery that put her on the sidelines.
Lawrence, a 23-year-old heptathlete, had to relearn her craft as the early stages of her recovery forbid her from getting up and moving around.
Winning medals at the national level was the last thing on her mind.
“I’m definitely not a stationary person so sitting for almost every hour of my day was not fun at all. But, I mean, I guess I got to watch some good movies,” Lawrence told the Free Press on Monday.
It’s what makes Lawrence’s record-breaking performance at the 2022 Canada Summer Games in Niagara, Ont., even more impressive. The Winnipegger captured gold in the heptathlon and set a Canada Summer Games record with 5655 points, breaking the previous record set 33 years ago by 222 points. Lawrence also won silver in the high jump, where she tied her personal best, and in the long jump where she achieved a career-high.
“Oh yeah, it’s definitely crazy to think about. (The accident and recovery) doesn’t even feel like a year ago,” said Lawrence on how far she’s come since the ordeal.
“I just had to trust myself and trust the process and the hours and all the work I put in. I had to relearn everything after not even walking for two months. At first, it was definitely a hard comeback and everything felt terrible. But I think eventually, things started to slowly come together and that’s when I started to think I was heading down a good path.”
With Lawrence’s medal haul, she got to lead Team Manitoba at Sunday’s closing ceremony as the province’s flag bearer.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s not something that comes around often and not many athletes ever get to do it,” Lawrence said.
“It felt cool to lead the pack of people coming in and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Lawrence had high expectations heading into the Games and figured she had a shot at breaking the heptathlon — an athletic contest featuring seven events — record. She ended up doing so as competition victories in the 100-metre and 200-metre hurdles, long jump, and high jump pushed her over the top. Ontario’s Catherine Bond, who competed at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Summer Games, was the previous record holder.
“It was definitely something I thought was possible. My previous best score was a little bit over the record so I didn’t think it was too far out of the cards. But I knew I had to go in and not really chase that, rather let it come to me. If I hyper-focused on that, that’s when things go wrong so I just wanted to go in relaxed and do my thing and see what happened,” Lawrence said.
Athletics Manitoba executive director and Team Manitoba coach Alanna Boudreau said it takes a special athlete to compete in a heptathlon, let alone win one.
“The multi-events are epically challenging. You have to be pretty committed and dedicated to the sport to succeed at a high level,” said Boudrea.
“… She competed in the individual long jump during the heptathlon, so she long-jumped nine times instead of three times and did it in the middle of a heptathlon. So, yeah, she’s pretty incredible.”
Gee-ef Nkwonta, an assistant coach with the Bisons, wasn’t surprised to see his pupil bring home three medals. Nkwonta worked closely with Lawrence during her recovery and the two of them made the most of the time away from competition.
“Resilient is one word that I’d use to describe her. She’s gone through a lot and having to sit out the indoor season not really by choice was something she was not too fond of. But we just had to figure out ways to make it positive and then it just ended up turning out well,” said Nkwonta, who was named the U Sports Track & Field Coaches Association’s assistant coach of the year last season.
“We got to focus on some things she was working on and work on them for a bit longer so in the long run, it helped out. It was just getting her to buy in so the trust she had in me was pretty helpful in that situation.”
With COVID and her injury, the Oak Park High School product hasn’t competed at the U Sports level since the 2019-20 campaign when she won bronze in the heptathlon and high jump at nationals for the Herd. The Bisons are ecstatic to have her back for the upcoming season and she’s hoping to make it to nationals in all three of her events, heptathlon, high jump, and long jump, this year.
“I just want to use the Canada Games as a building block and continue from there,” Lawrence said.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...