She seemed to be a sure bet for a gold medal at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. However, she floundered badly in the 100m semi finals and only qualified for the final because she was in the weaker heat. Fortunately, Madison recovered her confidence for the final and, despite bumping into a lane divider, won comfortably.
Four days later she anchored the U.S. team to victory in the 4x100m freestyle relay, helping to smash the world record by 9½ seconds. The next day, she engaged in a dramatic duel with teammate Lenore Kight at 400m freestyle and won a third gold medal by just barely touching the wall first. That night, Madison celebrated by dancing at the Coconut Grove nightclub with actor Clark Gable.