Maddison Pearman, left, and Thomasina Payne, right, pose for a picture at the 14th Special Olympics Celebrity Breakfast on Wednesday at the Harvest Centre in Red Deer. (Photo by: Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

Maddison Pearman, left, and Thomasina Payne, right, pose for a picture at the 14th Special Olympics Celebrity Breakfast on Wednesday at the Harvest Centre in Red Deer. (Photo by: Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

Pearman and Payne share stories of inspiration at Special Olympics Celebrity Breakfast

Both have competed at international levels

After a two-year delay, Special Olympics Red Deer was able to hold one of its biggest fundraisers of the year.

The 14th Special Olympics Celebrity Breakfast went ahead at the Harvest Centre with approximately 240 people in attendance. Chairman of Special Olympics Red Deer Jerry Tennant said they raised close to $10,000.

This year’s guest speaker was Team Canada Olympic speedskater Maddison Pearman and Red Deer Special Olympics athlete Thomasina Payne also spoke at the event.

Pearman, who is from Ponoka, has had a long career in long track speed skating most notably representing her country on the world’s biggest stage at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games.

The 26-year-old represented Canada for the first time in the 2013 World Junior Championship and made her second world junior appearance two years later.

In 2020 she won silver at her first Four Continents Championships and not long after made her first World Cup appearance in Calgary. The COVID-19 pandemic eliminated competitions and Pearman wasn’t able to compete until the Canadian Long Track Championships in 2021 where she earned a spot on the World Cup team full time after winning bronze in the 1000 metre race.

When she isn’t racing she is an ambassador for Fast and Female as well as a coach for Special Olympics speedskating.

Being asked to be the guest speaker was an honour and said she loves telling her story and getting people active.

Pearman said her family has always been involved with the Special Olympics adding her mother organized the Special Olympics in Nevada.

“It was always important for us growing up and we had a very close family friend who had down syndrome so working with that community and just allowing them to have opportunities was always big for us,” she said.

“Just to see their smiles and how excited they are just to have someone be involved in that and get them active is really inspiring. And like I said in my speech they didn’t care how well they did or where they are at they were just excited to be there and skating.”

Coaching she said impacted her Olympic career in a positive way, noting the athletes she trains are always so positive. When she didn’t make the Olympics in 2018 she began working as a coach and explained her athletes took a real interest in her career always going to watch her race and when she made the World Cup and the Olympics they were incredibly proud of her.

“I’m your coach I should be proud of you guys but they were proud of me and that just helped me look at training and life a little bit differently and have a different perspective on things,” Pearman said.

She hopes to stay involved in the Special Olympics long-term even after her athletic career and hopes to continue coaching when she’s not competing.

During her speech, she gave Payne a shoutout, noting hearing her story of her perseverance and struggles was inspiring.

“She kept training and training through the pandemic knowing things were going to potentially be postponed and cancelled and to see how positive she is even after all that is very inspiring for me,” she said.

Payne, who is from Red Deer, is a multi-sport athlete who competes in curling, athletics, and speedskating. Her speech Wednesday brought the crowd to their feet as she talked about her career and her perseverance throughout the pandemic.

As an athlete, she has made the podium at the provincial, national and international levels and in 2021 was named Special Olympics Female Athlete of the Year for her accomplishments.

Payne said it was cool to be able to come and share her story and took pride in how Pearman was inspired by her winning female athlete of the year.

“She even sent me a postcard from China… That was kind of neat,” Payne mentioned.

During the pandemic, Payne continued to commit to her training despite numerous Special Olympics being cancelled. She said what kept her motivated was the potential opportunity to represent Canada.

“It’s a privilege to be able to represent Red Deer and your city or town and the province of Alberta at nationals or big event,” Payne said.