Windsor Athletes on the World Stage 

Story by Matthew St. Amand
Photography by John Liviero

They arrive at competitions in teams, but each swimmer in the pool is an island unto herself. They’re not even racing against the swimmers in the lanes on either side, but against themselves, against the clock. The preparation that gets a swimmer to competition is enormous. The margins separating the results are razor thin. 

Madelyn (Maddy) Gatrall grew up in Tecumseh. Her journey to the Pan American Games began when she was nine years old.

“I always played in our backyard pool, racing my friends,” Maddy remembers. “When we had to close the pool for the winter, I wanted to keep swimming.” 

Her parents, Cory and Ginny, enrolled Maddy with Windsor Essex Swim Team and later with the Windsor Aquatic Club, where she quickly distinguished herself in competitions.

“I’ve always been competitive,” Maddy explains. “I really liked racing in a competition pool.”

“She won some local seal meets early on,” her father Cory says. “Then there were regional meets and she dominated in those. Then to provincials—Maddy was provincial champion for a few years with her backstroke. Then national competitions and now international with Maddy competing for Team Canada in the Pan American Games.”

It makes all those early morning practices worth the bleary-eyed dedication. Following high school Maddy landed a full scholarship to Akron University in Akron, Ohio.

“They have a very successful swim team there,” Cory says. “They are the eleventh fastest in the USA. They won the Mid-American Conference championship the last two years. Maddy holds the MAC record for the hundred-meter backstroke.”

 In Santiago, she competed in fifty-meter, hundred meter and two-hundred-meter backstroke. 

“Her specialty is the hundred meters,” Cory adds.

Maddy competing in last year’s MAC Conference Championships. Photo by Dave Fischer.

On October 22, Maddy entered the A Final with the fifth fastest time from the morning’s prelims for the two-hundred-meter backstroke. She improved her time in the final by more than a second, finishing in fifth place. 

In the hundred-meter backstroke prelims on the following day, she had the third fastest time. 

In the finals that evening, Maddy missed the bronze medal by one hundredth of a second behind teammate Danielle Hanus.

The Medley Relay happened on October 25. Maddy swam the first leg of the 4 x 100 meter finishing her backstroke at 1:02.11. reported: “Her efforts helped Team Canada to qualify first into the event finals with a time of 4:05.19 beating the Americans by over a second heading into the finals. Team Canada earned the gold medal with a time of 3:58.76 beating the United States by .63 seconds.” 

“This was my first time competing with Team Canada,” Maddy says. “I was really nervous because I’ve been training in the States and didn’t have that many familiar faces when I headed there. But everybody on Team Canada was very welcoming.”

From here, Maddy looks forward to her season in the MAC conference and then trying out for Team Canada with a hope of competing in the 2024 Olympic Summer Games in Paris, France.

Windsor equestrian athlete, Lindsay Traisnel, brought home team gold and an individual bronze from the Pan Am Games.

It is the culmination of a lifelong love of the sport. Lindsay began riding at age nine. Her parents signed her up for weekly horse lessons, and no one could have guessed the passion that developed.

“I loved it! It was all I wanted to do!” Lindsay recalls. “Everything was centered around the horses. I remember, we’d just got my first pony and my parents were going to England. I informed them that I could not go and was able to remain home and look after my pony when my grandparents agreed I could stay with them. I was ten years old at the time.” 

When asked what early success in the equestrian sport built her confidence, Lindsay laughs and says: “Well… there are different levels of competition. I started locally when I was ten and did not have a successful start. I fell off my pony a lot. It didn’t get to me, though. I’d hit the dirt and run after my pony and continue.” 

The sport is truly a partnership between rider and horse

Lindsay says: “Horses are incredible animals. They’re so generous. My horse—“Dreamy” is his barn name and his competition name is “Bacyrouge”—gives me everything he has.”

More than that, riders enjoy great camaraderie amongst themselves, even in competition. It’s not unusual for rival riders to cheer for one another.

“They’ll tell you if there is a fence that’s difficult,” Lindsay continues, “or if there is anything on the course that you need to be aware of that wasn’t obvious when walking it beforehand. We want to win, but we want everyone to have a great ride with their partners.”

Lindsay was one of four riders representing Canada at the Can Am Games, and it was also her first time on Team Canada. Making the cut is a process of gaining qualifications from other competitions throughout the riding season.

Equestrian, Lindsay Traisnel competing at the Pan Am Games. Photo by Cealy Tetley Photography.

She says that Chile, the host country “did an amazing job preparing the field—which was formerly a military base—making it ready for competition at that level.”

Lindsay competed in “eventing,” which is the triathlon of horse sports.

Competition day begins with a horse inspection by veterinarians and the judges to ensure the horses are healthy. The competition, itself, consists of “dressage,” which is where horse and rider go into a twenty-by-sixty-meter venue and perform certain movements at certain points, demonstrating their partnership. Then there is “cross country,” which is where horse and rider jump solid objects such as logs, picnic tables, go through water, jump into water as well as jump narrow fences which tests the accuracy of the partnership. And finally, “show jumping,” where horse and rider jump fences comprised of coloured poles.

Team Canada edged out Team USA, the reigning champions, to bring home the gold. The gold medal win qualifies Team Canada to compete in the 2024 Olympic Summer Games.

“We still need to each be selected for that team,” Lindsay says, “but I’m very hopeful for Paris in the summer.” 

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