For many students, the Manitoba provincial high school track and field championships will be the highlight of their athletics careers. But for Paige McDonald, she hopes it's just the beginning.
McDonald, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student at Miami School who competed in the varsity girls shot put this week, lost 80 per cent of her hearing two years ago. Her mother, Cindy, said it's a unique situation as most deaf people are either born deaf or lose their hearing from an accident.
"Her audiologist's best guess is that she had an inner ear infection that attacked her hearing cells," said Cindy, who often has to warn officials before track meets and games about her daughter's hearing disability. "She now wears two hearing aids in order to hear."
But McDonald hasn't let her disability, or the fact that she lives in Roseisle — a small town of approximately 75 people — get in the way of competing at a high level. At last year's provincials, McDonald won a silver medal in the shot put for junior varsity girls and at this year's event at the varsity level, she was one of only three Grade 11 students to qualify for the final round, where she finished in 12th place out of a total of 39 throwers. Impressive results, especially when you consider that McDonald doesn't even have a shot put coach at her high school.
"I just never changed anything," said McDonald on her approach to sports after losing majority of her hearing. "I just kept on going. Some people would stop playing sports after that happened to them, but sports are such an important thing in my life."
While McDonald may be finding success in shot put, volleyball is her true passion. She was the lone Manitoban named to the Canadian deaf women's volleyball development team and helped the red and white to a gold medal at a regional European tournament in Montpellier, France, last month. She began the tournament on the bench, but by the gold medal match, she was one of the team's starting players.
"It was absolutely incredible," said McDonald on winning gold for Canada last month. "I’ve never had a feeling like that before."
McDonald is aiming high, as her goal for after high school is to represent Canada at the 2021 Deaflympics that will be held in either Los Angeles or Dubai. She hopes to participate not only on the national volleyball team, but also as a member of the track and field team for shot put. The coach of Canada's deaf athletics team has already reached out to McDonald to help her train for shot put due to her potential.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," said McDonald on what it would mean to her to qualify for the 2021 Deaflympics.
"It's every athlete's dream to compete at that level."