For months there’s been endless debate about whether the Tokyo Olympic Games should go ahead or not, but after hearing how much it means to a young local athlete, the scores of doubters may actually change their tune.
In an interview with the Weekender seven years ago, Madison Ashby spoke of her dream of representing Australia at an Olympics. At the tender age of 13, the then McCarthy Catholic College student had a monumental goal, and nothing was going to stand in her way from achieving it.
Last week, after nearly a decade excelling at numerous sports, the now 20-year-old was given the news that she had earned a ticket to Tokyo as part of the Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens team.
Madison Ashby, the supremely talented kid from Jamisontown, would become our newest local Olympian.
“I’m still speechless, this is the pinnacle of sport,” an excited Ashby told the Weekender from a pre-Olympic camp in Cairns.
“When I found out a week ago I had made the team, I FaceTimed my whole family and told them the news. Everyone was so excited and so happy for me.
“I got pretty upset telling them… I think it was a very emotional day for everyone. We all cried so many times.”
Ashby has been part of the Australian Rugby Sevens set-up for several years. Since 2019, she’s been travelling the world competing against some of the best rugby nations on the planet, but her time with the squad hasn’t been a smooth ride.
From being in and out of the team to switching positions and the most gruelling training sessions, the slog’s been a rollercoaster of ‘Bush Beast’ proportions for the former rugby league, touch footy and OzTag star.
“Yeah it’s been pretty tough, but we’re training for an Olympic sport, so there’s going to be lots of ups and downs,” Ashby admitted.
“I haven’t been home in about a month, so it’s hard not seeing friends and family but it is what it is. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and I’m pretty privileged and blessed to have this job.”
Ashby and her teammates will depart for Tokyo this Monday before hitting the field for their first game in late July against host nation Japan. While sadly no fans will be in attendance due to the pandemic, Ashby is confident her team can challenge for a medal even without the roar of a live crowd.
“We’ve been playing a lot games in Sydney with no one watching us, so we’re kind of used to no crowds due to COVID. Honestly, we are there to play and our coaches have prepared us for this scenario,” she said.
“Winning a medal is definitely a possibility. We’ve been having some world-class games recently against New Zealand and Fiji, and you just never know who will turn up on the day and how you’re going to perform.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.