Madelaine (Maddie) Buttinger is a Heptathlete and the current Canadian National Champion in the heptathlon. She was born in Waterloo, Ontario and is a Notre Dame Alumna. Her honors and awards include:
IAAF Capital Cup, World Combined Events Challenge Series (Ottawa, ON), Bronze Medalist, 2015 Pan American Games (Toronto, ON), Athletics Ontario Year End Awards, Ontario Heptathlete of the Year, Canadian National Championsips (Moncton, NB), Bronze Medalist- Heptathlon, Francophonie Games (Nice, France), Silver Medalist- Heptathlon, Athletics Ontario Year End Awards, Ontario Heptathlete of the Year, NCAA Division 1 Indoor Championships (Boise, Idaho), Bronze Medalist- Pentathlon, First-Team All-American.
What’s your story?
I was born and raised in Waterloo, Ontario as the oldest of seven children, one boy and six girls. When I was little, all seven of us always had a ton of energy, so my parents signed us up for every sport possible as a way to keep us busy. I first discovered my love for running and track and field when I was 12 years old. I started out competing in every single event that I possibly could, and loved them all. I signed up for every single event possible, and would run around all day competing. Not only did I compete in them all, but I was also extremely competitive, so I would win almost every single event. I had a hard time choosing which event I liked best, which is probably why I ended up competing in the heptathlon.
The heptathlon consists of seven events; 100m hurdles, high jump shot put 200m, long jump javelin and the 800m that take place over two days. You get points the faster you run and the further you jump and the person with the highest total of points at the end wins. While in high school I had the chance to compete for Canada a number of times at the World Youth and Pan Am Junior Championships, getting to travel to amazing places like Morocco, Brazil, France and Holland.
After graduating from high school my performances in track and field earned me the opportunity to attend the University of Notre Dame on a track scholarship. Over my four years at Notre Dame I had some of the best memories and experiences of my life. I graduated in 2012 with a degree in finance, as well as achieving a number of athletic and academic accomplishments. Athletics has helped play a big role in where I am today. It opened the door for an amazing education, as well as helped me meet friends and networking circles that will last a lifetime.
Although I achieved many positive accomplishments while at Notre Dame, like in everything we do, there was a number of ups and downs. As everyone knows sports are not easy, they require many hours of dedication and hard work all for an uncertain end result. Injuries and unforeseen circumstances can occur at any moment setting us back from the goals that we establish for ourselves.
Leading into my senior year at Notre Dame I had extremely high goals. My plan was to medal and become All-American at the NCAA championships indoors and outdoors, as well as represent Canada at the 2012 London Olympics- the defining competition of every athletes career. I’d fought through many injuries leading up to the 2012 season, but early progress hinted that I was finally on track to meet all of my goals. I had the best indoor season of my life, earning the bronze medal at NCAA’s, breaking the University of Notre Dame pentathlon record as well as earning All-American accolades. Things were going just as I’d planned. I was aiming to end my final senior year at Notre Dame on a high note leading into my last ever outdoor season. Training was going amazing, I was in the best shape of my life, and I knew that my goals were well within my reach.
The funny thing about plans is they don’t always work out. I tore my calf hurdling in practice just a few weeks before the NCAA final and a couple months before the Canadian Olympic Trials. I saw my Olympic Dream, as well as all my athletic goals for my final year at Notre Dame shattered as the doctors informed me that a calf tear of this magnitude would sideline me from training or competing for a minimum of five months. This injury completely devastated me as I was unable to compete or train for seven months because of the size of the tear. I remember sitting in my room crying for multiple hours a day for about a week straight.
This was one of the most devastating moments of my track and field career, but at the same time it has become a defining moment in my life. Not being able to compete changed my perspective. At the end of the day it isn’t about the accomplishments and accolades, but rather what you gain as a person through the process. I remembered a saying that my track coach always preaches. “The sport you pursue is what you do, not who you are.” It is not the end result that matters the most, but the process by which you take to get there. The lessons and skills that one learns through athletics are transferable to just about every other aspect of our lives. Although I was not able to achieve my Olympic dream for 2012 or the goals that I had for my final year at Notre Dame I gained so many other traits such as dedication, team work, commitment, along with many others that I am able to transfer to many other aspects of my life on a daily basis.
My original plan was to retire from track and field after Graduation and the Olympics in 2012 and move to Chicago to pursue a full time career in finance at Deloitte. However, being sidelined for the 2012 season left me feeling like I hadn’t reached my full potential. I did not feel like I was ready to retire as I still had the passion and desire needed to accomplish my ultimate goal and made a commitment to continue training in pursuit of my Olympic dream for 2016.
I moved home to Toronto to train with the University of Toronto track club high performance group working towards my 2016 Olympic goals. While I was training full time I was still seeking a way to utilize my finance degree and support myself. I reached out to the partners at Deloitte in the Chicago and Toronto offices, and they created a modified work agreement, which enabled me to pursue a career and train at the same time.
I was able to find success both in the office working as a Financial Advisory Analyst, and on the track training upwards of 30 hours for the heptathlon. In 2013 I earned the bronze medal at Canadian National Championships. This qualified me to represent Canada at the 2013 Francophone Games in France, where I earned my first International medal; a silver in the heptathlon. I have also had the opportunity to compete in several other International competitions around Europe, earning more podium finishes.
The highlight of my athletic career to date was becoming the 2015 Canadian National Champion in the Heptathlon, as well as the Pan American IAAF Combined Events Cup Bronze medalist. These accomplishments were a driving force in my decision to take a leave of absence from work this year in order to fully focus on training and my dream of competing in the Olympic Games. I have moved to Phoenix, Arizona to train at ALTIS World (formerly known as World Athletics Center), in order to train in a professional environment with some of the best coaches and athletes in the world.
What’s your favorite event?
Before I became a Heptathlete, I was a high jumper and 400m hurdler, because of this I would say that my favourite events would be high jump and the running events; the 200m and 800m. I love the satisfaction that you feel after a hard 800m workout. Most Heptathletes dread the 800m, at the end of two days competing most times you are mentally and physically exhausted by the time you get to the 800m. If you are able to embrace it and push through the 800m this can help give you an edge on your competition. However, I really love the heptathlon as a whole, although you are competing against other athletes, you are mostly competing against yourself. Every athlete has different strengths and weaknesses, so you must focus on yourself and your individual performances, rather than comparing yourself to your competitors. You are trying to beat your personal bests in each event, and do the best that you can individually.
What was your most monumental moment in Track and Field?
I think that most people would probably list the most monumental moment in track and field as a success, but I would say that it was actually my lowest moment. I was ready to retire from track and field after the 2012 season. I had secured a full time job with Deloitte in Chicago, and I was prepared to work full time. However, my calf tear made me realize just how strong my passion for track and field was, and I was not ready to retire. It fueled my desire to move back home to Toronto to continue training for track and field towards the 2016 Olympic Games.
What is your mindset going into the Olympic year?
My mindset is to take things day by day and focus on each individual practice and moment in time. As a very goal oriented person, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in your big goals and lose sight of the day to day activities that it takes to achieve these goals. As a Heptathlete the ability to transition your focus between events is crucial to success. We compete in seven different events, and train for 3-4 events at practice every day, so it is extremely important to concentrate on the event in the moment. Mindfulness on the task at hand is an extremely important aspect of training that I am especially focused on this year. I set daily short term goals so that I am able to chip away at my long term goals.
How is training going so far?
As the outdoor season is fast approaching, the progress that I have seen both at practice and in competition has reinforced my decision to uproot and move halfway across the continent in order to pursue my dreams. Training at Altis is truly unlike anywhere else, the coaches, training environment, and support they provide us with as athletes sets us up with the tools that we need to work towards our Olympic goals.
Advice to Young Athletes
My advice to young athletes is to find something that you are truly passionate about and pursue it relentlessly. If you train for something that you love it will never feel like work. Don’t be afraid to dream, no dream or goal is ever too big. If you want something bad enough be willing to do whatever you can in your power to help get there. Try out as many sports as you can when you are young, don’t focus too soon on only one sport. When I was younger I tried every single sport possible, which was how I found my passion for track and field.
Workout tips for the average person would be to set goals for yourself and start small. Writing down your fitness goals helps to focus your training and adds purpose to workouts. I live by my daily planner, and make daily goals and to do lists for myself. Make a workout plan and write it down, this will make you more likely to stick to it!
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