Cheri Madsen competes in the women's 400-meter T54 at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 2, 2021 in Tokyo.
A quarter-century after her Paralympic Games debut in wheelchair racing, Cheri Madsen has decided to stop pushing herself around the track in competitions.
Just shy of her 45th birthday, Madsen gave a good account of herself against much younger rivals by winning a pair of medals at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. It was as good a time as any to call it a career.
“I feel relieved a little bit,” Madsen said. “Training for these Games, with the five years between the two, it was really hard. It was a lot of work.
“For me, personally, I just don’t want to make the team and go (to the Games) — I want to medal. I just feel like that’s probably not going to keep happening.”
Madsen has already won her share — 10 medals in all, including a pair of golds — dating back to the Atlanta Paralympics in 1996; she also won a bronze at that year’s Olympics as part of an 800-meter exhibition race. She capped it all off with a silver in the 400-meter and a bronze in the 100-meter T54 in Tokyo.
“Sometimes, I’m definitely amazed that I’m pushing faster now than I did when I was in my teens and early 20s,” Madsen said. “That just goes to show the amount of work that I’ve put in and the amount of training and time that I’ve spent getting to this point.”
Madsen, a Nebraska City, Nebraska, resident and member of the Omaha Tribe, was concerned that the extra year of preparation for Tokyo made necessary by Covid-19 would work against her.
“These younger girls are getting an extra year to get stronger and faster,” Madsen said. “And not having any competitions, I didn’t know how anybody was doing. It was just kind of going into these Games just blind as to what everyone else was doing.”
Though in her mid-40s, Madsen probably has less wear and tear on her body than she would have if not for the 13-year break she took from competition after the 2000 Paralympics to start a family.
Madsen has two daughters. Reese, 18, plays junior college softball. Fifteen-year-old Malayna is a three-sport high school athlete.