Achieving excellence in sport is no easy task, but Chantal Payne is the definition of an athlete who continues to push their game to the next level.
27-year-old Chantal Payne has been involved with Special Olympics for 15 years competing in both curling and athletics.
She has committed to these two sports because of the family environment they provide, the ability to meet new friends, and the comradery between teammates.
Since starting with Special Olympics in 2003, Chantal has always been an athlete who is willing to work hard and learn in order to grow as an athlete.
“I think Special Olympics has helped me be able to make friends and be able to try my best in sports,” said Payne. “It has helped my maturity level by meeting people and traveling to events.”
For Chantal, playing sports with Special Olympics is a way to remain active, play with friends, and feel the thrill of racing, which she advocated was an incredible feeling. One of the ways that she has grown to compete at the highest level is her commitment to mental training. As a member of Team Alberta, Chantal received a mental training session with Canadian curler, Mick Lizmore, which she claimed was super informative and helped build on practices she had already implemented.
“I do a lot of mental training, so I take a deep breath and visualize the sport – I see myself passing by others and finishing strong,” said Chantal.
Visualization combined with a formidable training regimen allows Chantal to compete to the best of her ability. She stated that she tries to run on the treadmill or jog around her neighbourhood to stay in shape.
Chantal trains every week with Special Olympics Alberta and her athletics coach Kristen Mackenzie who works with Chantal to improve her overall fitness levels. As part of her Team Alberta training schedule Chantal vastly improved her speed, jump length, and general fitness through exercises and routines that focused on her track times and broad jump.
Chantal is a seasoned veteran when it comes to Special Olympics competition having competed for the past 15 years, which culminated in an appearance at the 2007 Special Olympics World Games in Shanghai, China.
She stood on the podium not once, but twice in China earning silver medals in the 4x100m relay and 200m dash. Reaching the podium at the World Games is an incredible feat and the pinnacle for sport within Special Olympics - Chantal continues to prove she is capable of improving through the help of coaches and teammates.
“[My teammates] are really motivating and they help you push yourself,” said Chantal. “They help me and cheer me on.”
She is a decorated athlete having competed at the 2008 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Quebec City and was a member of Team Alberta for the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Antigonish.
Her journey to Nova Scotia began last year in Medicine Hat at the 2017 Special Olympics Alberta Summer Games where she competed in the 200m, 400m, 800m, and running long jump.
Chantal won the gold in the 200m and 400m dash, along with winning bronze medals in the 800m dash, as well as the running long jump. This impressive performance in Southern Alberta earned Chantal a spot on Team Alberta and inspired her training schedule over the past year.
She competed in the 200, 400, and 800M races, along with running long jump at Nationals and her experience was pivotal as she earned a gold in the 400m dash (F3 division), a silver in the 800m run (F2 division), and a bronze in the long jump (F3 division).
Her future goals include returning to Worlds, but this time in curling – a journey that starts with the 2019 Special Olympics Alberta Winter Games in Calgary.
Curling and athletics are just two of the sports in which Special Olympics promotes inclusion through sport. This year Special Olympics celebrated its 50th Anniversary (50 years of empowerment and inclusion through sport) and it is dedicated to making inclusion for all a reality. Chantal Payne is one of the athletes at the forefront of this movement challenging people to #ChooseToInclude and end discrimination for those with intellectual disabilities.
“Choosing to include means being respected and feeling like you belong somewhere, said Chantal. “No one should ever have to feel differently.”
Refer a friend or family member to a Special Olympics program to help ensure that Special Olympics can continue to transform lives for another 50 years.
Chantal is up for the challenge, are you?