Maddie Davidson – Inspirational, Resilient, Hard-working, Role Model

“When you’re competing you think, ‘why do I do this?’ But you get such a buzz from it. Nothing else from it gives you that feeling like getting off a trampoline and finishing your routine. It’s a huge part of my life.” [3]

DAVIDSON Madaline – FIG Athlete Profile (gymnastics.sport)

Maddie Davidson is a New Zealander who made history by becoming the first female trampolinist selected to represent New Zealand at the Olympics [1]. Maddie is 22 years old, born on the 8th of January 1999 in Ōtautahi Christchurch, New Zealand  [2]. She started trampolining at the age of seven and first represented New Zealand at age twelve, and she has not stopped since! When asked why she began trampolining, Maddie says, “When you’re competing you think, ‘why do I do this?’ But you get such a buzz from it. Nothing else from it gives you that feeling like getting off a trampoline and finishing your routine. It’s a huge part of my life.” [3] Maddie trains as a full-time athlete at Olympia Gymnastics Sports with Alex Nilov, her coach.

Along with being a full-time athlete, Maddie coaches at Flips and Tumbles. She says, “Trampolining has provided me with some of the most amazing opportunities, so I started coaching as a way to give back to the sport that has given me so much.” Coaching soon became a passion of Maddie’s, and it is something she enjoys every day [4].

Maddie (center) trampolining as a child – Photo provided by Maddie

Career Highlight- World Age Trampoline Championships

Maddie has many outstanding achievements, but the 2017 World Age Trampoline Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, made her renowned in her field. At this meet, she won two major awards: a bronze medal in the synchro event with her partner Kate Nicholson and a silver in the individual category [5]. Maddie said, “This was my fourth World Age Group competition. I actually got my previous best result here at the same Stadium in 2013 when I placed 16th in the 13-14 year age group.” In the World Age Competition, Maddie was the first New Zealander in over 30 years who medalled in the 17 – 21 age category. She was also the first Kiwi to win two medals in over 20 years.

Previous to this, Maddie’s career highlight was winning the gold at the 2016 Indo Pacific Championships in both individual and synchro. Maddie had some advice for other athletes, “If you really love it go hard. Work hard and you can achieve anything.” [6] . To date, the 2017 World Age Trampoline Championships is Maddie’s career highlight, and she said, “I would have to say the 2017 World Championships: I won two medals there and it was the turning point in my career that proved to myself that I could make the Olympics.” [7]

Maddie Davidson (left) pictured with teammate Kate Nicholson at the World Trampolining Championships in Bulgaria – Photo provided by Maddie Davidson

Olympic Qualification

The competition that qualified Maddie for Tokyo was the Aere World Cup in Brescia, Italy. Qualification for Olympic trampolining uses a ranking points system. Points are awarded over a two year period at specific competitions. When Maddie was going into this last qualifying event, she was sitting within the top 16 spots. However, there were three close rivals there too. After the Aere World Cup, Maddie moved up into the 12th position, securing a spot in Tokyo. Maddie said, “I was over the moon when I realized we had secured the quota spot. It is a real honour to compete for your country, and if I get the chance, being the first female at the Olympics will be something I’ll take a lot of pride in.” [8] .

Qualifying for the Olympics and being the first female trampolinist to represent team NZ was not something Maddie was ever expecting would happen. She said, “To be the first person to do something is a really special title. We worked so hard for five years to make the team, so when it happened, it was indescribable, one of the best moments of my life” [9].  

Roadblocks and Growth

Maddie focuses on psychological power and strength, saying it is more important than physical strength. Maddie said that “If you’re not strong in your brain, in how you feel on the trampoline, then it’s not the right sport for you. You’ve got to be able to step over that fear of making mistakes, falling off, or landing on your head, which happens sometimes.” [10] . She also talks a lot about the importance of a good mindset. A good mindset is something all athletes have regardless of their sport, size, colour, race. Maddie said, “I truly think the psychological outweighs the physical in my sport.

Having a resilient mindset was particularly helpful in 2020, with the Olympics postponed. “I was sitting outside just scrolling through Facebook when I found out the Olympics had been postponed,” she says. “I just started bawling my eyes out. I was so close to going, I could almost touch it – and then it was so far away. It was almost like I couldn’t see it anymore.” Lockdown was tough on Maddie. Fitness-wise, she was the same but had lost a lot of spatial awareness on the trampoline, and as no competitions were going on the rest of the year, she was able to improve and learn new, more complex tricks. “There is always a risk of injury when learning new skills,” Maddie explains. “But I managed to pick up four new skills last year. That type of growth doesn’t happen normally. It ended up being a good thing.” Before this, Maddie had mastered an advanced trick called the Triffus- a triple somersault with a half twist. Over lockdown, she had mastered the Half Triffus; female trampolinists do not commonly perform this skill. “I saw the boys doing the Half Triffus and thought, if the boys can do it, I can do it. It’s been really cool to add it into my repertoire,” Maddie announced [11].

When asked what messages she has for younger trampolinists who look up to her, Maddie says, “consistency is everything, it really is about showing up each day and trying everything you can to make those small gains. But, also make sure that you love what you do, because hard work is that bit easier if you are really passionate.” [12]

Tokyo and Beyond

Arriving in Tokyo was an unbelievable and fantastic feeling for all the athletes. Everything Maddie had trained for was finally happening. She had her individual qualifier on the 30th of July, and she was excited to show the world what she had. Maddie finished the competition placing tenth, an astonishing result for a first-time athlete! [13] Having the Olympics delayed by a whole year and competing at long last was such a relief and proud moment for Maddie. When asked about her future plans, Maddie says, “My current plan is to go for two more Olympic cycles, so until the 2028 Games. I’ll be 29 at that point, so we will be able to reevaluate whether we will go again after that. For the sport, I’m hoping that more girls will stick with trampolining or start getting into the sport. At the moment, it’s a male-dominated sport, so I hope more girls see that it is possible to push through to that next level.” [14] .  

Maddie Davidson is one of New Zealand’s most successful female athletes, being the first woman to represent Aotearoa New Zealand in trampolining at an Olympic level. The 2017 World Age Trampoline Championships proved that she could make it, and she has. Maddie focuses greatly on emotional resilience; this value has been beneficial over the past year. Maddie is such a powerful and inspirational woman that everyone in Aotearoa can and should look up to! There are many more notable achievements and moments to come for Maddie.


Published: March 24th, 2022

Last modified: March 24th, 2022

Cite as: Marina Antinova, ‘Maddie Davidson – Inspirational, Resilient, Hard-working, Role Model’, Womens History of New Zealand, edited by Nicole Johnston, Last modified March 2022, https://atomic-temporary-193744190.wpcomstaging.com/maddie-davidson-inspirational-resilient-hard-working-role-model/

Categories
Sophie Armitage

Yvette Williams

Yvette Williams, New Zealand’s first woman on the podium: Yvette’s journey from nationals champion to Olympic gold medalist.

Yvette Williams was a New Zealand track and field athlete, who made New Zealand sporting history with her achievements on the world stage. Her career saw her break numerous records and win many accolades. Her most notable achievement was being the first New Zealand woman to win a medal at the Olympic games. Yvette was born in Dunedin on the 25th of April 1929.[1] Her sporting career started early, and involved a wide range of sports. Williams was a talented netball and basketball player. She represented the South Island in both netball and basketball and represented New Zealand in basketball between 1950 and 1955.[2] Her athletics career began in 1947, when she joined the Otago Ladies Amateur Athletics Club.[3] Although she originally joined for social reasons, she quickly began to make a name for herself. She won the national shot put title in 1947 and her first national long jump title in 1948.[4] In total, she won 21 national titles across shot put, long jump, discus, javelin and the 80-metre hurdles. She eventually moved to Auckland from Otago in 1952 to follow Jim Bellwood, her trainer.[5]

While she was left out of the 1948 Olympic Games,[6] a  controversial decision at the time. She later won the long jump title at the 1950 Commonwealth Games held in Auckland. She broke the national, Commonwealth Games and British empire record at this event with a jump of  5.89 meters.[7] At this same meet she also won a silver medal in the javelin.[8] Yvette went on to continue to compete and smash records, particularly in long jump.

Yvette Williams (centre), after receiving her Olympic gold medal in 1952. https://athletics.org.nz/new-dunedin-meet-honours-yvette-williams-legacy/

In 1952, Yvette was able to compete on the world’s biggest stage, the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.[9] In the buildup to the games, she spent all her spare time training while also balancing a job as a secretary at a law firm. She spent lunchtimes and after work training in order to continue her preparations. Due to a lack of financial support for athletes at the time, she also had to be inventive in her training methods. One way she did this was by running with army boots on in order to build strength and make her feel lighter without them.[10] At the Helsinki Olympics, she competed in the discus, shot put and long jump. Although doing well in discus and shot put, placing tenth and sixth respectively, long jump was truly her specialty. On the 23rd of July 1952, Williams won the Olympic gold with a jump of 6.24 meters, giving her the Olympic record as well.[11] Her Olympic medal was the first of any colour to be won by a New Zealand woman.

With her triumph in the long jump, Yvette firmly stamped her name in New Zealand’s history books as one of our top athletes. She went on to break the world record in 1954 for long jump. Continuing to compete with great success in many athletic disciplines. Her sporting achievements were recognised by her countrymen with Yvette being awarded the Sportsman of the Year in both 1950 and 1952.[12] She also received an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 1953.[13] Although Yvette retired in 1956,[14] she continued to have an impact on athletics through coaching as well as through her involvement with Special Olympians, helping to train intellectually disabled athletes.[15]

Yvette was continuously recognized for her contribution to sport many years after her retirement. She was inducted to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 [16] and voted Otago Sportsperson of the Century in 2000.[17] She continued to contribute to New Zealand sport for the rest of her life. She established the Yvette Williams Scholarship in 2013 which provides financial support for an up and coming athlete each year. The scholarship is to help young athletes continue funding their training, a resource that Yvette and many other athletes at her time did not have the luxury of. Notable recipients of the award include weightlifter David Liti and sailors Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders[18].

Although in her later years she developed a brain abscess that inhibited her speech,[19] she continued to inspire the next generation by attending New Zealand Olympic Team events, so as to talk with and inspire other athletes. Yvette Williams passed away in April of 2019 at the age of 89, however her legacy remains strong and is still being recognised. Most recently, she was posthumously promoted to Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to athletics in the 2019 Queens Birthday Honors[20]. Yvette Williams will continue to inspire future generations of athletes to achieve their dreams through her dedication to sport.


Sophie Armitage
Sophie Armitage

My name is Sophie and I am a 21 year old student at the University of Otago. I am currently in my final semester studying a Bachelor of Arts and Science, majoring in History and Psychology and minoring in Sports Science. I grew up always loving history and have continued with the subject to this day. Outside of my studies I am also a keen footballer and love to go out and get active whenever I can. 

Recommended Further Reading:

Bibliography:
  • Kevin Boon, Yvette Williams, People of New Zealand History 2006, Kotuku Publishing

06 Feb 1951 – PROFILE Jumpers are her specialty – Trove (nla.gov.au).https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/23048998

Image Bibliography:
  1. Yvette Williams competing at the 1952 Helinski Olympic games in Long Jump, New Zealand Olympic Museum Collection. Yvette, setting the Olympic long jump record in 1952.
    https://www.olympic.org.nz/assets/Museum/corlett-yve-object-1.jpg
  2. New Dunedin meet honours Yvette Williams legacy | Athletics New Zealand. Yvette Williams (centre), after receiving her Olympic gold medal in 1952. https://athletics.org.nz/new-dunedin-meet-honours-yvette-williams-legacy/
  3. A wonderful athlete and inspiration, it is a travesty Yvette Williams was never honoured with a Damehood | Stuff.co.nz. Yvette Williams with two time olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams. https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/opinion/112030351/a-wonderful-athlete-and-inspiration-it-is-a-traversty-yvette-williams-was-never-honoured-with-a-damehood

Published: August 27th, 2021

Last modified: January 5th, 2022

Cite as: Sophie Armitage , Yvette Williams, Womens History of New Zealand, Last modified January 2022, https://womenshistorynz.com/yvette-williams/