Central Alberta native Maddison Pearman remembers going to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and seeing close family friend Jess Gregg capture a medal.
Although years before, as a five-year-old when she first started long track speed skating, the Olympics were always the dream. At that moment, they were just that – a fantasy world that only lived in her imagination.
She had watched Catriona Le May Doan and Red Deer native Jeremy Wotherspoon compete at the Olympics in 2002 and that sparked something, but 2010 was different.
Seeing that medal – seeing that win up close changed something for her.
“Just seeing someone that I knew, that I was really close with was able to go and do it, made it that much more attainable,” Pearman said.
Fast forward 12 years later and the Ponoka native, who spent much of her early speed skating career with the Red Deer Central Lions Speed Skating Club, can finally call herself an Olympian. She was named to Canada’s Olympic team on Monday.
“I was in a good position, but it’s not real until it’s real. To get that initial email that says yes, you are going. I definitely cried. Called my parents, they cried. My sisters cried. Very amazing feeling,” said Pearman, who has been training at the Calgary Olympic oval with Speed Skating Canada for the past few years.
Pearman, who turns 26 on Sunday, said the last few weeks have been a whirlwind. She got word from Speed Skating Canada that she was set to represent the country at the Olympics next month in China, but she had to keep the news under wraps until the official announcement Monday.
“It was hard training and doing all that and waiting for the announcement to come. The support has been amazing over the past 36 hours,” she said.
“The amount of love and support and comments from everyone on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have been very overwhelming in a good way. It’s amazing.
“Going to World Cups is great, the Olympics is just that stepping stone that I’ve been aiming for my whole life…Apparently, I have a lot of fans and people that will be cheering me on. I’m absolutely blessed.”
Even with a strong season on the World Cup tour, as a rookie, she wasn’t sure whether she would crack the Olympic team. She didn’t win any medals in four world cup events this year but was still the top-ranked 1,000 metre skater in the country in December.
In a typical year, she still would have had to win a spot on the team at the Olympic trials. The event was cancelled out of an abundance of caution with the Omicron COVID-19 variant spreading quickly in Quebec, where they were supposed to be held.
That made the World Cup results, including a personal best in Salt Lake City in December, all the more important.
“The first two were a big learning curve… coming to Salt Lake City I had two really good races, I was really, really happy. Both of those solidified my spot on the team,” she said.
“Pulling off a huge (personal best) in the thousand, same in the 1,500. Big (personal best) there, which helped me solidify that I was in the running for the games, regardless of if we had trials or not. I knew I was skating well.”
Along with the 1,000m, Pearman is set to race in the 1,500m next month in Beijing. Her first race is Feb. 7, although she’ll leave for China next Wednesday to quarantine and prepare.
One of the things she’s looking forward to most about her first Olympic experience, beyond the competition, is the chance to walk in the parade wearing the Maple Leaf proud during the opening ceremonies.
“Just watching the people walk in, is definitely the dream of being an Olympian. Everyone walking in together is something I’ve been looking forward to forever. Hopefully, those go ahead in a safe manner,” she said.
For a kid from a small town with big dreams, she sometimes still doesn’t believe it’s real.
“It’s crazy to look back, even four years ago, barely trying to make the World Cup and now solidifying myself as one of the top 1,000 metre skaters in Canada and the top 15, feels pretty good,” she said with a smile.
“Been a long battle. You kind of forget about coming from a small town. This is a big thing for a lot of people. It’s huge for myself too, but I know I’ve been working towards this… coming from a small town, people are really excited which is great to see and I’m really happy that I can do this and represent Ponoka and Red Deer.”