Kelly competed with the Varsity Blues track team from 2013–2018. PHOTO COURTESY OF MARTIN BAZYL/THE VARSITY BLUES

Lounging on her sofa with a bowl of salad in hand, Madeleine Kelly, former Varsity Blues mid-distance runner, stretches her legs and winces. She’s sore after a long day of training.

No longer running for the Varsity Blues, Kelly has new goals in mind to work toward: namely, the Olympics. “I’m training for cross country with the Varsity Blues and will have an indoor season,” Kelly clarifies, but it is clear that she is hungry for more.

Kelly found her stride while running at U of T. “I met my coach through the Varsity Blues — actually I met him in high school when I was 16. I’ve [ran] with him ever since, and I still do, so I’ve known him for eight years.”

Meshing well with Coach Terry Radchenko and the support system of friends and teammates that she amassed over her years studying at U of T, Kelly decided to stay in Toronto and run with the U of T Track Club.

She felt that the familiarity and camaraderie of the club would lead her to success: “[Terry Radchenko] is part of the reason I chose to go to U of T, and why I stayed to run for the U of T Track Club.”

The decision to stick around paid off. In late July, at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Montréal, Kelly defeated favourite Melissa Bishop-Nriagu and defending champion Lindsey Butterworth in the 800-metre event to secure her first national title. “It was one of the most memorable days of my life,” she chuckled. She was undoubtedly the underdog: “I just had a really good last 100 metres, and won by the skin of my teeth. It wasn’t even on my radar to win this race.”

But make no mistake: this win is just the beginning for Kelly. When asked what her sights are set on next, she didn’t hesitate: “Going into this year, I wanted to make the Olympics, and I still do.” Instead of inflating her ego or allowing her to rest on her laurels, her recent win has stoked her competitive fire and fueled her drive for bigger wins. She’s using the recipe that led her to success to orient herself for wins at future races. “I de-stressed that day, and felt pretty good. I went shopping with my sisters, ate some food, watched some Real Housewives, and went to the track.”

Kelly is also quick to credit her steady success to her support system. “A bunch of people were there to watch, which was very nice, like my family, my boyfriend, and my teammates. And there were a bunch of people watching at home.” With a goal within reach and a group of people to keep her focused, it’s no wonder that she’s so confident for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

She may not have Bishop-Nriagu’s media attention, but Kelly doesn’t need it. She’s steadily working her way to the tantalizingly-close standard time for the Canadian Olympic team, and she’s not letting any distractions get in her way.

Watch out for Madeleine Kelly — she may very well be on your TV screens next year. “It’s not a guarantee,” she says, “but I’ve got a chance. I’ve got a real chance.”

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