A speed skater from Ponoka has become a local hero in her community.
Maddison Pearman will once again represent Team Canada, as the 2023-24 Canadian National and NextGen long track teams were announced by Speed Skating Canada earlier this summer.
The 27-year-old first represented Canada on the international stage in 2013 at the World Junior Championships, Her first senior competition came in 2020 at the Four Continents Speed Skating Championships, where she won the goal medal in the team sprint event and silver in the team pursuit.
She also competed in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, competing in the 1000 m and 1500 m events.
Pearman calls wearing the maple leaf and representing Canada an “honour” and “something that will never get old.” She recalls the immense sense of pride and overwhelming feelings of happiness of qualifying for the Olympic team and sharing some “very special tears” with her parents and family who have been by her side every step of her journey.
“Sharing that moment with them was something I will never forget,” she said. “To have a childhood dream come true after 21 years of hard work, dedication and adversity was pretty amazing.”
Pearman was five years old when she took her first strides on speed skates at the Red Deer Lions Speed Skating Club with her two sisters. Her mom got involved with the club soon after her parents had settled down in Ponoka. They trained short track at what Pearman calls one of the “coldest arenas in Alberta,” and long track at the Golden Circle.
A multi-sport athlete growing up just like her parents, she played soccer from ages five to 18, ran track and cross country throughout her school years and played basketball and volleyball until late high school when she chose to focus more on skating.
There were two moments where Pearman realized she had potential to go far in speed skating. The first was in 2011 when she qualified as the youngest skater competing for the Canada Winter Games in Halifax at age 14. This event opened her eyes to both the internal and external pressure that comes with being an elite athlete and wanting to perform on the big stage.
The second time was at the Junior Worlds in 2013, her first time travelling overseas to race internationally, where she was an underdog leading into the trials.
“I was still in high school and most people had counted me out, but I had a great first day of racing and qualified for the team,” Pearman said. “It fueled that fire to make the team again, and eventually get onto the senior world cup circuit and Olympic team.”
The Olympic experience is something Pearman will never forget. She recalls walking into the Oval for the first time, standing in line and hearing her name being called for her first race and walking in to the closing ceremonies.
“They were absolutely some of the most incredible moments of my life,” she said. “My most cherished memory [was] watching three of my teammates stand on top of the podium with gold medals around their necks and belting out the national anthem with tears running down my face.”
Pearman was disapointed she was unable to share her experience with her family and friends, especially her parents, due to COVID19.
“They have sacrificed so much for my sisters and me, and I would have loved for them to be able to witness in person me accomplishing one of my dreams and share it with them,” she said.
She is hoping to have a true Olympic experience with her family, all the fans, and interact more with the other athletes in the village at the 2026 Winter Games in Italy.
Although the life of an Olympian may seem glamorous, Pearman admits that there have been some dark times, times that people are not always open with.
She had days of self-doubt, not believing she deserved to be at the Olympics, and started to compare herself to other athletes, not feeling like she was one of the best in the world.
“The highs are highs, but the lows are very low,” she said.
Pearman also went through some depressive times and feelings of imposter syndrome, but was able to push through with the help of her family and friends.
“The Games are such a huge hype and it’s amazing having the support and excitement from the country, but once they are over, things go back to normal and can be a hard pill to swallow… it can be hard to not have it anymore,” she explained. “I was lucky enough to have an amazing support team that helped me through these few days of lows and lifted me up.”
Since the Olympics, Pearman has spoken at over 15 schools, fairs and businesses to help inspire the next generation of athletes, and was even the Parade Marshall at the 2022 Ponoka Stampede.
Pearman has always made it a priority to show the world where she comes from, and is proud to call Ponoka home.
“I had the most community support and fans cheering me on back home when I was at the Games… the amount of outpouring love and support once I made the Olympics surpassed anything I could have expected.”
She goes on to say that she feels blessed with the support and love people in the community continue to show her, and it helps motivate her to bring a medal back to Ponoka in 2026.
“I just want to thank everyone who has donated and supported me in my career,” she said. “Every bit helps when it comes to fuelling the Olympic Dream.”