Madisyn Cox Swimming Better Than Ever Thanks to Extra Year of Olympic Preparation

Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Madisyn Cox Swimming Better Than Ever Thanks to Extra Year of Olympic Preparation

It was March 2020, and with less than three months until the 2020 Olympic Trials, Texas postgrad Madisyn Cox was hitting her stride. She had swum a new best time in the 200 individual medley at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Des Moines at 2:09.03, ranking herself tied for second in the world with fellow American Melanie Margalis. She was one of the frontrunners for what would have been her first Olympic Team in Tokyo in both IMs, before she would pursue a medical school degree in the fall. Everything seemed to be falling in line for Cox, who was reaching the final days of her swimming career.

But a week after the 2020 TYR Pro Swim Series in Des Moines, the COVID-19 pandemic caused cancellations all over the world, and not long after, the Olympic Games were officially pushed to 2021.

Flash forward to May 2021, and the Olympic Trials are on the horizon again. Three weeks from the first day of the meet, Cox lined up at her home pool at the University of Texas, and swam a new best time in the 200 IM, practically picking up right where she left off in March 2020. Her time of 2:08.51 put Cox at the top of the world rankings for 2021 and put her in the driver’s seat to potentially make her first Olympic team in Omaha in June.


Madisyn Cox at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Mission Viejo. Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

“I was pleasantly surprised – that would be a good way to describe it,” Cox told Swimming World.

“It was hard to keep momentum! I’d be lying if I said the entire year was just gearing up and getting ready for this. I had to take some time off and I had to step away for a second and put things in perspective, spend time with my family. I was just making sure my happiness was a priority.

“When pools were able to open up and I was able to work out fully again, I was able to fully dedicate myself and put everything I could into it. That was a little hard. There was a period where people didn’t know whether the Olympics were going to happen and I put my blinders on and swam and trained as if it was 100% certainly happening.”

Cox’s 400 IM from last weekend’s Longhorn Elite Classic put her second nationally at 4:36.61 while her 200 free was also a best time – 1:57.38 ranking her third in the United States.

“I’m definitely just happy and I am enjoying the process,” Cox said.

Cox has long been one of the top IMers in the United States, winning bronze in the 200 IM at the 2017 Worlds. In 2018, she was hit with a doping suspension that was eventually overturned, but kept her out of contention for the 2019 World Championships and Pan American Games. Leading into 2020, it was expected to be the finish of a long road, no matter what happened in Omaha. With an unexpected extra year thrown at her to prepare for Trials again, as well as some forced time out of the water, she had to find happiness in other places, and she found it with playing games with family members.

“I realized I derive a lot of my happiness and sense of purpose on swimming and training and how competitions go,” Cox said of being out of the pool during the COVID lockdown. “I went home and spent time with my family.

“I played pickleball every single day probably a few hours,” she said. “That was my competitive outlet. We also had a peloton there and it was a lot of fun. We did some competitions on that with different national team teammates. We played card games every night. I think I was more competitive in my time off than I am now.”

Madisyn Cox’s Impact


Texas head coach Carol Capitani at this year’s NCAAs. Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

Cox has been with coach Carol Capitani since the fall of 2013 when she was a freshman in college at the University of Texas. During her time in Austin, Cox helped build up Texas to a spot in the national top five, just a few points shy of coming home with a top four trophy at the 2017 NCAAs. The Longhorns struggled to replicate that in the years after Cox graduated, but the 2021 team finally broke through to finish third – the program’s highest finish in two decades, something she takes pride in helping build, but credits head coach Capitani in the result.

“They are on a rise up and that’s something that Carol talked to me about when she was recruiting me and that vision she had. I hoped it would be in my four years that we had done what they are doing now but I am beyond grateful to be a part of that.


Madisyn Cox in Mission Viejo. Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

“I could not speak more highly of Carol. She is a phenomenal coach and a phenomenal person and she believes in every single person on the team. I think that goes a long way and the people on the team feel that. When you swim knowing people believe in you and you’re confident in that, I think that goes a long way. That combined with the happiness and energy, they just have a recipe for success on that team right now.

“I didn’t have to see them actually swimming to know they were going to have a good season because they were so happy and so energetic,” Cox said. “They truly went in to every meet and had the most fun I have ever seen.”

And it was this energy from the undergrads that Cox credited to why she has been able to swim better than she ever has this season.

“I haven’t actually swam with them in any of their meets this year but I’ve seen their energy and actually getting to be in there with them and see that energy and be a part of it, I think that was what really drove me to have a good weekend. We weren’t rested or anything so I think it was a really positive energy that they have created and maintained. They’ve done a great job of seeing the bright side of things and taking this year one step at a time.”

“Closing of One Chapter and Opening of Another”

Cox is approaching what would be her third Olympic Trials in a little over two weeks. No matter what happens in Omaha, she will be off to medical school in the fall at the University of Texas McGovern Medical School in Houston after being granted a rare deferral because of the Games being pushed. Five years ago, she was fourth in both the 200 and 400 IM with no tickets punched to Rio. This time around, she is content with whatever happens, whether she ends up on the plane to Tokyo or she is watching the Games from her couch.


Madisyn Cox talks to the media at 2019 Nationals. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

“In 2016 I definitely thought I had my life figured out,” Cox said. “I think by that point, you always think you’re so knowledgable and old and you have so much experience but now I am looking at my 2016 self and thinking ‘she doesn’t even know!’ There’s so much experience to gain in these past five years now and I think now I am going into it and I feel more at peace.

“My mind is at peace and I feel like I’m genuinely enjoying the journey and whatever Trials will bring. I am grateful to be there and to have the opportunity to be swimming and doing it with the people that mean the most to me.

“I have a plan A, B, C and all the way to Z and I am confident in that. No matter how it goes, one day I am going to be a doctor, hopefully, and be serving other people and helping other people and hopefully saving lives. I think that having that ultimate goal and dream really helps keep everything in perspective.”

Whether this is the last meet for Cox remains to be seen as she admits she isn’t ready to leave the sport so abruptly just yet.

“I think this will be the closing of one chapter and the opening of another,” Cox said. “I don’t think I’ll be physically or mentally able to leave the sport completely cold turkey like that. I don’t know in what capacity that will look like. I know they have some great teams in Houston and maybe I can help out coaching or do whatever I can. I just want to stay involved in the sport in some capacity.”

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