Madelyn Gortemoller’s battle with scoliosis hasn’t slowed her down

Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 9:41 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -Madelyn Gortemoller has more than made a name for herself in the realm of Tiger Sharks athletics. The Port St. Joe senior is a standout on the cross country, track, and soccer teams, with all of her accomplishments, you would never guess the adversity she has faced.

“I was born with scoliosis, and ever since, like the age of one to 11, I wore a brace,” said Gortemoller. “When I was seven or eight, I got to the point where I needed to wear a nighttime brace.”

Her only escape from the brace was athletics, and her sport of choice was soccer.

“It was like a passion,” said Gortemoller. “I love soccer. I was able to be, I would say, free because I didn’t have a brace on, and I was able to move, and I really took passion in that time because it was a time that i didn’t have to wear a brace.”

By the time Madelyn was 11, her doctors decided she would need surgery. Eight hours, two rods, and 27 screws later, her spine was the straightest it had been in years, but she still had a long road of recovery ahead.

“I just remember it being rough the first couple of days, but I remember having to re-learn how to walk and still having to have faith in God and just saying, ‘Lord, please,’” said Gortemoller. “I knew he was going to provide. It was definitely a rough time.”

Madelyn didn’t just re-learn how to walk, she ran.

“I’m out here now, and I enjoy running so much,” said Gortemoller. “I actually started with soccer and then, I got into track because I did want to stay in shape for soccer.”

Even more, Madelyn qualified for the state track meet in ninth grade, has won four district championships for track, scored 35 goals in her Tiger Shark soccer career, and has won three district championships in cross country.

“This is the first athlete that I’ve ever seen go through something like that, that I’ve ever coached and be a part of going through what she’s been through, and come out and been winning,” said Port St. Joe track coach, Keion McNair.

Her drive on the track and the pitch, having a ripple effect throughout her teams.

“She’s motivation for me, motivation for her teammates,” said McNair. “Being able to go through what she has been through, it’s hard. It’s hard on her.”

Looking back on where she was and what she has been able to do is not easy for her to do.

“Every time I think about it, I get emotional,” said Gortemoller. “I just feel like I’ve come a long way, but through that, I can just see all the blessings and just how God has provided in things that I never knew could happen. I thought I had a disability, but just having that courage and that faith and just believing. To look back on the challenging times, use that, and look now, at the challenging times that I face now, I did that back then, so I can face it now.”

Motivation in the face of adversity through the support of her family, community, and her faith.

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