Canadian 800m Olympian Madeleine Kelly has gone from winning her first race in a pair of Asics shoes to signing her first professional contract with the brand. This has been a promising development as Kelly begins her journey to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
The 27-year-old from Pembroke, Ont., is one of only eight Canadian women who have ever broken the two-minute barrier in the two-lap event. In 2022, she represented Team Canada at the World Indoor Championships, World Outdoor Championships and Commonwealth Games.
The possibility of turning pro wasn’t on Kelly’s radar until it was approached by Asics last year. “It feels great to turn pro and sign with such an established brand,” says Kelly. “I’m excited! I can now say running is my job… in a good way.”
Kelly only made her first national team in 2021, for the Tokyo Olympics. She finished fifth in her 800m heat, narrowly missing qualification to the semi-final in a sprint finish.
Kelly says that even though she went to the Olympics, as an athlete training in Canada, she knew a pro contract wasn’t a guarantee. “There is a big divide between athletes in the US and Canada,” says Kelly. The US market is about 10 times the size of Canada’s, and that equals more sponsorship dollars and fans, increasing an athlete’s marketability.
Kelly says her goal heading into the 2023 season is to stay consistent and run fast times; ultimately, her goal for the season is to reach the world championship semi-final. “I really want to be a semi-finalist or finalist at a major championship,” says Kelly. “It would be a huge confidence boost for me, before heading into the Olympic year.”
Kelly took an unorthodox route to professional running, staying in the Canadian U Sports system (she attended the University of Toronto) instead of going to the NCAA. Her 2017 cross-country team at U of T featured five athletes who have represented Team Canada at some point in their career (Sasha Gollish, Lucia Stafford, Gabriela Debues-Stafford and Jazz Shukla).
“We had a talented group of women, and we all got along well,” says Kelly. “It was an inspiring training environment, and we all just wanted to make each other better.”
Kelly currently lives and trains in Hamilton, Ont., under the supervision of her collegiate coach, Terry Radchenkowho is now in his second year with the University of Guelph track and cross-country program.
One aspect of training in Canada Kelly has enjoyed is that she’s been able to pursue her dream in her own way, having friends and family close by. “I think you get the best results when you train and compete in a way that’s authentic to you,” she says.
When she isn’t training, Kelly writes freelance stories for canadian running and is a co-host of “The Rundown” on The Shakeout Podcast. She is also a volunteer coach with the PACK Running Club in Hamilton, Ont., where she enjoys helping young runners find a love for the sport.