Maddison Pearman is competing in the 1000m and 1500m races
By Diego Flammini
Alberta’s agriculture sector will be represented at the Beijing Winter Olympics in February when Ponoka’s Maddison Pearman goes for gold in long track speed skating.
“It’s an absolute thrill to be going,” she told Farms.com. “It’s been a childhood dream of mine.”
The 26-year-old University of Calgary graduate’s childhood started on her family’s cow-calf operation, Monte Vista Farms, near Rimbey.
“We have about 600 head of cattle right now and a half section of land,” she told Farms.com. “My dad (Myron) also does custom silaging.”
The rest of the Pearman family includes Maddison’s sisters, Brooke and Tess, and her mom, Shawna.
Maddison’s journey to Beijing began as a five-year-old at the Red Deer Central Lions Speed Skating Club, which her mom, Shawna, founded.
Each member of the Pearman family has been involved with speed skating in some capacity. Brooke and Tess have transitioned from skating to coaching, and Myron has coached, volunteered and been a starter.
And before starting the skating club in Red Deer, Shawna represented Manitoba at the Canada Winter Games on two occasions and coached during the 2019 Canada Winter Games and the 2020 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.
The family recently won the Gagné Family Award from Speed Skating Canada for their contributions to the sport.
“Speed skating and sports is in our blood,” Maddison said. “My sisters and I have done other sports, but speed skating is part of our family.”
Pearman’s Olympic dream continued to grow when she watched other Canadian athletes compete in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“I watched Catriona Le May Doan win gold,” she said. “And Jeremy Wotherspoon, who is from our club, unfortunately fell during his race. But for me, as a young kid, watching them compete, it inspired me and showed me that I could be in their spot one day.”
Pearman’s Olympic aspirations grew even further during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
She attended the games as a spectator and watched friends compete for a medal.
“Jessica (short track) and Jamie Gregg (long track) are childhood friends of ours and I got to see them compete,” she said. “Jessica won a silver at those games. Seeing that, experiencing the games, and seeing a family friend win a medal lit a fire in me that I would get to the Olympics no matter what it took.”
Pearman first represented Canada internationally in 2013 at the World Junior Championship and on the Junior World Cup Circuit. She competed in another World Junior Championship in 2015.
Her first event as a member of the senior team came in February 2020 during the Four Continents Championship where she won a silver medal.
Any momentum she had was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic and Pearman didn’t compete again until the Canadian Long Track Championships in October 2021.
The time between the two events was difficult, but Pearman leaned on her upbringing to get her through the tough times.
“Growing up on a farm, you learn that a lot of things, like the weather, are out of your control, and you need to figure out what to do to complete the task at hand,” she said. “After the season ended last year, the Olympic Oval (in Calgary) had a malfunction, and we didn’t have ice for nine months. So, I went home, I worked on the farm, and I spent time with my family. It did wonders for my mental health and reignited my love for agriculture and that’s what I want to do after I’m finished with skating.”
Pearman graduated with a kinesiology degree from the University of Calgary in 2021.
As she prepares for Beijing, Pearman is aware this Olympic experience will differ from the ones she’s watched and attended.
The ongoing pandemic means stands won’t be as full and her family won’t be there to cheer her on.
But she isn’t going to let COVID take away from enjoying her time.
“This is my first Olympics and I’m just so grateful they’re even going on,” she said. “I’m going to enjoy everything I can, and if anything, this lights a fire in me to continue skating to make it to 2026 Olympics in Italy when I can experience everything in its fullest.”
The Winter Olympics start Feb. 4.
Pearman begins her journey to the podium three days later as the women’s 1500m medal will be awarded on Feb. 7.
Pearman isn’t the only member of Canada’s ag community heading to the Winter Olympics.
Kristen Bujnowski, who grew up on her family’s tobacco and ginseng farm in Mount Brydges, Ont. will compete in bobsleigh.