Somewhere in Ken and Cindy Richards’ basement in Simi Valley, California is a drawing their daughter, Madisen made when she was 7 years old. Across the crayoned picture of Madisen competing in a long jump event, in a first grader’s shaky scrawl, are words that—if all goes well—will prove to be prophetic: I want to be an Olympian.
A natural athlete with a strong competitive streak, Richards started doing track and field events as a young child. During one meet, she set her sights on earning a special medal awarded to athletes who have competed in all the age-appropriate events at the session. Although she had never participated in long jump, she gave it a try– and she has never looked back.
A friendly but intense competition with her best friend kept focused and determined as a younger athlete, motivation she parlayed into an outstanding high school career. Richards was a scholar athlete and student leader all four years at Simi Valley High School where she maintained a 4.0+ GPA, served as ASB president, and graduated with honors. When she graduated in 2014, Richards was ranked eighth in the state of California and 19th in the U.S. among high school long jumpers, and had amassed a long list of records and awards.
Richards continued to excel academically while working hard at her long jumping performance while attending the University of Southern California (USC). Eventually, Richards plans to go to medical school, but she made the decision immediately following college to focus on her Olympic dreams. Shortly after graduating from USC, she began working out at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California before COVID-19 curtailed many young athletes’ opportunities there.
A believer in “when one door closes, another opens,” Richards accepted an offer to intern with internationally known track and field legend Charlie Powell earlier this year. A one-time decathlete, Powell has had a long career coaching collegiate track and field at the highest levels. Regarded as one of the most passionate figures and effective coaches in collegiate track and field, Powell came to SPIRE from the University of Pennsylvania, where he led the Quakers for more than 30 years.
In preparation for the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon in June of 2021, Richards is currently dedicating at least 12 hours per day to training, conditioning, and studying for the MCATs, and interning with Coach Powell.
How hopeful is she that all her hard work will pay off?
“Making Team USA’s Track & Field team is unlike other sports in many ways,” Richards explains. “It really doesn’t matter who you were going into the trials. History and past performance aren’t taken into account. It’s all about who you are coming out of the Olympic trials. So who gets to represent the US in track and field events at the next Olympiad is hard to predict. For me, it depends on how well I do on June 24th when my first round of trials is scheduled.”
Although Madisen Richards is not likely to forget when to show up in Eugene, Oregon for her 2021 Olympic trials, she’s got a countdown app on her phone leading up to June 24, 2021 programmed on her phone…just in case.