Thomasina Payne of Clive, Alta. attended the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games held in Thunder Bay, Ontario from Feb. 25 to 29, 2020. Payne was delighted to bring home four medals – all in Speed skating.
She won a gold medal in the 777m race, a silver medal in 500m, a silver medal in 333m, and a silver medal in 222m.
The 28-year-old is active in plenty of sports aside from speed skating but fell in love with the people, the travelling and the winter aspect of the game.
“I was always interested in the winter kind of sports. I learned how to downhill ski, I snowshoe, I skate, so yeah this sounded like this was kind of fun. I just happened to be sitting with a guy from Rocky [Mountain House] at the Grande Prairie provincial games that was a speed skater so I decided to chat him up about the sport,” said Payne.
This person gave Payne all the contact information needed for the Red Deer Central Lions Club where she was welcomed with open arms immediately back in 2015.
Some members of her club often go to meets in Saskatchewan or farther east whereas Payne typically goes to Calgary and Edmonton regularly.
She found out she would be going to nationals in June 2019 and has since been preparing for the competition.
Central Lions Club head coach Nick Shultz, as well as her speedskating coach Shawna Pearman, have been instrumental in her success as she has been training between two and three times a week leading up to nationals.
In order to get to the Special Olympics, Payne first pre-qualified for provincials in Edmonton at the Fall Classic, won first and a couple of second place finishes at provincials in Calgary and then went to the national event.
“We had a lot of fun,” began Payne. “I found the volunteers were really friendly throughout the week. [They] Loved to talk to us when they had the chance.”
Although Payne has travelled to the eastern province before for nationals in track and field and family vacations, she had never experienced Thunder Bay itself.
One of the highlights of her trip was getting to see the Terry Fox statue and the harbour front.
“I had never been to Thunder Bay before so I guess that was kind of cool to see a new city and a new part of Ontario I had never seen before,” she said.
“It was neat. It was the first time I went to nationals for that sport.”
Now that nationals is finished, there is a high chance Payne will possibly be going to the next level of competition: international.
But for now, some complications with the host country has put the competition for next year in limbo and is now yet to be determined.
There is another competitor who is also eligible to go to the games ahead of Payne as she won more gold medals so there is a chance Team Canada could take them both or just one of them.
“It all depends on who Team Canada wants to take,” said Payne. “It’s not a gimme that you get to go on. It’s like any sport, you have to meet the requirements and the ratios and all that kind of stuff,” added Payne’s mother, Marie.
As for hometown support, there hasn’t been a shortage from the village of Clive.
“I do the water metre bills for Clive and almost the whole village came in and I was swarmed,” said Payne. “I would say there is some community support there.”