For Paralympian Madison de Rozario, her first hint of self-acceptance didn’t come until almost five years after she nabbed her first medal at the Beijing games in 2008.
That initial win is now more than a decade ago and the 25-year-old knows her platform has her well-placed to help other women shave time from their own journey of discovery.
“I was maybe 18 or 19 when I realised that my body was never, ever, ever going to look like I wanted,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“And when you just realise this is never going to happen it just comes with the greatest sense of acceptance.”
This is the advice she now spouts to women, regardless of their age or ability status — something Madison knows first hand can compound the struggles that come with being female.
Now she’s part of Under Armour’s Together We Will campaign which aims to unite athletes to inspire each other and rally around a common cause.
“When you throw in the disability factor, it comes with the realisation that you’re in a body that’s never going to be perfect as far as society wants a woman to look like,” she said.
“And if you’re only working on it to be younger or fitter, you’re still going to have to love it through the process, not just when you finally get to that stage.”
Acceptance of this type has always been prevalent in Madison’s life, beginning at age four when the flu developed into a rare autoimmune disease, and her body started attacking itself.
She was soon left in a critical condition which resulted in permanent paralysis from the waist down.
Living with such a visible disability largely influenced Madison’s relationship towards seemingly unattainable standards of beauty expected from sportswomen.
“Being both an athlete and being a young woman can be such conflicting things as there’s such a pressure to look a certain way even within your own sport,” she said.
But doubt was never enough to stop her.
After capturing her first silver medal at the Beijing Olympics aged just 14, Madison went on to win two more silvers before becoming a double Commonwealth Games champion last year.
However she lists her greatest sporting achievement as winning the women’s wheelchair title at the London Marathon last year - becoming the first Australian to do so.
“As an athlete you have to have so much love and respect for your body, you have to ask it to do ridiculous, difficult things and to do that you really have to have a healthy relationship with it.
“Even if our sport can take us to incredible heights, there is still this aesthetic pressure that we’re not good enough because they don’t look a certain way.”
“And the sooner young women realise this, the better off we’ll all be for it.”
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