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Northeastern Honors Its Gold Medalist

By Cathy Ching - HOCR
Posted on October 24, 2021
Northeastern Honors Its Gold Medalist

After celebrating her 25th birthday at dinner with her friends at The Charles Hotel, Madison Mailey received a birthday gift from her alma mater Northeastern University: her gold-lettered name on a shell.

On Saturday afternoon, alumni, parents and guests gathered at Henderson Boathouse to attend the boat christening dedicated to Mailey, a 2018 Northeastern graduate and a gold medal winner with the Canadian women’s eight at last summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.

After the speeches, Northeastern women’s coach Joe Wilhelm popped a bottle of champagne, and Mailey, her parents and Wilhelm all took turns pouring the champagne onto the bow.

Mailey attributes a lot of her successful journey to Wilhelm. After she returned home to Lions Bay, British Columbia from the Tokyo Olympics, she called to thank him for his support, to which Wilhelm responded with a secret he had kept from her: Northeastern was dedicating a racing shell to Mailey.

“My jaw dropped,” Mailey said. “I never thought I would have a boat with my name on it. It’s so incredibly special to me. I feel so honored.”

Mailey graduated from Northeastern with a bachelor’s in business management and entrepreneurship and a certificate of merit in music performance from New England Conservatory of Music. As a rower she led Huskies to three Colonial Athletic Association championships and three appearances in the NCAA’s. To her friends in those Northeastern boats it was not just her rowing that made her a great teammate. Marina Remick of New Jersey, Mailey’s roommate at Northeastern, said that Mailey’s loving character makes her stand out above others in the boathouse.

“Any person around her — no matter if she’s known them for her whole life or she’s just meeting them at that moment — she makes everyone feel included and welcomed,” Remick said.

Jocelyn Mongillo of Connecticut agreed. Mailey was not only a good teammate, but also a great friend. “She brings warmth to everything,” Mongillo said.

Along with Mailey’s compassion for people was her passion for motivating others. Wilhelm said she knew how to get the most out of herself and help others get the most out of themselves. Although Wilhelm had been coaching the rowing team longer than Mailey had been alive, he felt that he had more to learn when Mailey joined the team.

“On one hand, she was very easy to coach because she brought so much effort and so much commitment to the team every day. At the same time, she was very difficult to coach because she demanded the best of the coaching staff,” Wilhelm said. “It made [me] want to be a better coach.”

The success she’s enjoyed at every level of the sport, juniors, collegiate, international, Mailey credits less to her natural gifts than to her resilience, which she learned from her parents. When obstacles came in her way, Mailey’s parents encouraged her to work hard and keep moving forward.

“Nothing really came easy in the sport for me. Yes, I’m tall. I got that going for me. But I was never the strongest or the fittest in the room,” Mailey said. “I worked really hard. I was taught at a young age that if you put in more hours than someone else even if they’re naturally talented, you might beat them.”

During their time at Northeastern, Marina Remick recalled Wilhelm telling the tales of each name on the side of the Northeastern boats and the legacies these women left behind. Wilhelm, made his team learn the significance of each name of the boats they were rowing in.

“It’s emotional to think that the generations of female rowers that come through here after us are going to see our best friend’s name on a boat,” Remick said. “They’re going to know the impact that Madison made on this program.”

To future generations of Northeastern rowers, Wilhelm will now tell his team the story of Madison Mailey, and what she meant to and coaches alike as she passed through Northeastern on her way to Olympic gold.

“Work ethic, commitment, dedication, tenacity — these are all the things we learned about Madison,” Wilhelm said. “Those are the things that make you an Olympian. Those are the things a coach can’t teach.”


By Cathy Ching - HOCR
Posted on October 24, 2021