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Paige Madden ready to begin Olympics after beating COVID

UVA senior Paige Madden
UVA senior Paige Madden(ACC)
Published: Jul. 24, 2021 at 6:13 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Paige Madden is one of three athletes on the UVA swim team who are competing at the Olympics in Tokyo.

The Cavalier senior will be making her first appearance at the games on Sunday.

Madden qualified to swim in two events, and she did it while recovering from COVID-19.

“If anybody could get COVID two months ago, and still be very successful after that, it was going to be Paige,” says UVA head coach Todd DeSorbo.

Paige Madden helped lead the Virginia women’s swimming and diving team to their first-ever national championship this spring.

The senior won three individual titles at the event, but shortly after, tested positive for COVID-19.

Madden says breathing suddenly became her biggest concern.

“I already had asthma before that,” says Madden, “and having chest pain, I’m a swimmer. “My lungs are probably my most important organ, and they fact that they’re not working exactly as they were before was really frustrating.”

Madden made the team by finishing second to Katie Ledecky in the 400-free.

She almost skipped the event to concentrate on the 200, due to Aerobic concerns related to her recovery from COVID.

“I kinda took the 400 as an event to just dip my toe in the water,” says Madden, “and just get a feel for the atmosphere, and I think that helped me a lot, because I didn’t put any pressure on myself, even when it came to the final. So making the team was a really good surprise.”

Madden will also swim on the 4x200 relay team.

Her hard work has rubbed off on the other Cavaliers, like fellow Olympian, Alex Walsh.

“Paige is literally my hero,” says the freshman. “Everyone on the team looks up to Paige. She works so hard. She’s been such a great inspiration for me, and she motivates me to do as well as she does.”

DeSorbo adds, “I would have been surprised if Paige had not made the Olympic team, just because of who she is, the work that she’s done, the work that she’s put in, and it’s constant with Paige.”

Todd DeSorbo did not recruit Madden.

She was already a freshman on the team when he took over in 2017, but the coach told her right away that she had the potential to be an Olympian.

“It was very clear,” says the coach. “I think everybody on our staff, everybody in the pool, all of her teammates, would have said the same thing.”

“I also remember him saying, ‘I think that you can make it in the 200 freestyle,’ and he never said anything about the 400, so I might have to give him a hard time about that,” Madden added with a laugh.

Paige Madden will swim in her first event on Sunday Morning at 7:24 Eastern, as she competes in Heat Four of the 400-Free.

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