One of the best parts of watching the Olympic games on television is seeing the overjoyed reactions of an athlete’s friends and family when the Olympian wins gold or completes a fantastic routine or game. Unfortunately, for Kim Maddux and all other Olympic moms, dads, families, and friends, that just isn’t possible this year.
Maddux’s daughter is first-time Olympian, Jillian Weir, who will compete in the Women’s Hammer Throw for Team Canada, beginning Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021. Jillian is a dual citizen as she was born in Menlo Park, California, while her father, three-time Olympian, Robert Weir, was the head coach of Stanford University’s track and field team.
“I was super excited when she chose to [represent Canada],” shares Maddux on the phone from California, “Because when the kids were little, I would spend pretty much May to September in the Napanee area, my dad at that time was in Roblin. And my mom lives out near Perth. They had a cottage up there, and that was my kids’ best memories, I think. It was great.”
Maddux says she and Jillian have spent a great deal of time together as she has chased her Olympic dream, travelling to compete in Australia, Vienna, Prague, and all over the world. So, this Olympic games has a bittersweet taste, because Jillian’s fans have to stay at home, Maddux expresses.
“I mean, I love her coaches there, I have complete trust in them, which is wonderful, but it’s definitely hard because when she was training up north [at the University of Missouri], I would go up every other month to visit her. It’s been really hard on us all, to be honest with you.”
Maddux, who was born Kim Armstrong, stresses the importance Jillian feels not only of representing Canada, but representing Indigenous youth at the Olympics. Jillian is the first Mohawk to compete at the games for Canada in Track and Field. Kim’s mum is a Mohawk of the Bay of Quinte, as is her grandmother.
“My grandmother and great grandmother both spoke Mohawk [Kanyen’kehá:ka] and were from Tyendinaga [Mohawk Territory],” says Kim.
“And it’s funny because when we were together, Robert was a coach at Stanford, and they would have something called the powwow. When they were little, the kids loved the powwow and that was sort of our Mother’s Day weekend.That was our tradition, until they went away to college,” Maddux shares. “So we did that and then, of course, every time we came home [to Napanee], it was really important for me to reflect on that heritage, as well, because that is who I am. For me specifically, and also my mom, my aunts and my grandmother, that was a very important part of my growing up and my daughter’s as well.”
Weir has said in the past that she is honoured to inspire Indigenous youth in Canada who aren’t used to seeing Indigenous athletes at the Olympics. Just to have that representation is a big deal to her.
It is not lost on Maddux how much of her own life has been dedicated to Jillian’s athletics. “She was a track athlete, she liked water polo, hockey. I mean, me being Canadian, I made sure that both the kids played hockey, so she played hockey. We had a rink in the Bay Area.”
Robert Weir’s disc throwing career took Kim and children Jill and Rob all over the world as he represented his native Britain; to the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and championships. He even played in the CFL for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Ottawa Rough Riders, and Toronto Argonauts, between 1987 and 1992.
After their split when Jillian was around 12, the kids spent most of their time with Kim and her second husband, Tony Maddux.
“I really kind of dedicated myself to my kids,” she says, noting that she knew sports was in her kids’ DNA, “I didn’t really know what area they’d be in, but I thought it was really important for them to do everything because I’m not particularly athletic. I mean, pretty much anything they do they do great at, whether it was football or water polo. So, that was really fun.”
But there have been difficult times along that journey, Maddux expresses noting that Tony, “Jill’s stepfather and I were married in 2008. And then he actually passed away in 2018 in an automobile accident while Jillian was in Australia. So, that was hard.”
For the last seven months prior to the games, Jill has been training with her father, Robert, who is an assistant coach at the University of Missouri. She usually works with Larry Steinke in Lethbridge, Alta., but with COVID-19 restrictions, Robert in consultation with Steinke has facilitated her coaching.
Recently Jill posted to social media, “Like everyone, I’ve had ups and downs to get to where I am and, over the last year, it seems like there have been a lot more downs. From mental and emotional struggles to injuring my foot in an accident in practice that sidelined me for six weeks as I was getting ready to open the season; I feel like I’ve been on a steep uphill climb and my slow and steady progress is finally paying off. I appreciate everyone who has supported me, encouraged me, and believed in me; I’ve got a lot more to say but my season is far from over so for now, thank you!!”
Maddux speaks via text to Jillian every day she’s in Tokyo, and says her daughter is doing well. Jillian will step into the circle on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, for the qualification round of the women’s hammer throw.
Anyone wanting to follow along on her Olympic trek can follow Jill on Instagram.