– Michael Budden is no stranger to the winner’s podium. Since joining the Bay St. George Bravehearts, the Stephenville athlete has excelled in just about every sport he’s tried, from cross-country skiing and curling, to track and field and swimming. Now he’s been named Special Olympics Canada’s Male Athlete of the Year.
“Competing in sports brings me immense joy and fulfillment. I love the thrill of the game, the camaraderie with fellow athletes, and the sense of achievement that comes with pushing my limits,” Budden said. “Sports empower me, teaching me valuable life lessons about dedication, teamwork, and perseverance.”
And the Community Leadership Development student at College of the North Atlantic has the medals to prove it.
In 2020, Budden won four medals at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Thunder Bay, earning him the honour of representing Canada at the 2023 Special Olympics World Games.
“Winning multiple medals in Thunder Bay was a surreal and incredibly proud moment for me,” he said. “The feeling of accomplishment and the overwhelming support from my teammates, coaches, and supporters filled me with immense pride. Learning that I would be representing my country at the Olympics in Germany was a dream come true. It was a mix of excitement, gratitude, and a little bit of nervousness.”
Preparing for the Olympics required Budden to train even harder, both physically and mentally. His coaches also stressed the importance of being aware of opponents’ times and distances so he would be prepared for the challenge of competing against the world’s best.
Budden, as usual, did not return empty-handed. He won the gold medal in shotput, a track and field event in which athletes must throw a heavy ball as far as possible.
“One of my most cherished memories from the Special Olympic World games in Germany was standing on the podium, with my gold medal in my hand. The sense of pride and accomplishment in that moment was overwhelming,” he said. “The friendships I forged with athletes from around the world and the mutual respect we shared are memories that will stay forever.”
Budden also thoroughly enjoyed the Opening Ceremonies, describing the experience as exhilarating.
“Hearing the cheers for Team Canada truly made me understand what it is to be Canadian and to be respected,” he said. “I was amazed by how big the Olympic Stadium in Berlin was and how many people from all different countries came together to celebrate. It was awesome!”
Budden’s latest honour added to his lengthy list of accomplishments is being named the country’s Male Athlete of the Year by Special Olympics Canada at a special awards ceremony last Thursday.
“Being named Male Athlete of the year in Canada was an incredibly humble and surreal experience,” he said. “It was a recognition of the hard work, not only by me, but also by my coaches, teammates, and supporters. The honor motivates me to continue pushing my limits and inspiring others to pursue their dreams, regardless of the challenges I might face.”
Budden thanked his Coach, Rosie Ryan, whose guidance and mentorship he said have been instrumental in his success.
“I am also deeply grateful to the Bay St. George Bravehearts athletes, coaches and volunteers, my entire community, Stephenville, Kippens and surrounding areas, and my parents, Marie and Les Budden, for their encouragement and belief in my abilities,” he said. “Their support has been my driving force, and I couldn't have achieved this without them.”
Budden wasn’t the only Newfoundland and Labrador athlete honoured at the awards ceremony. Samantha Walsh, also a member of the Bay St. George Bravehearts, was named Female Athlete of the Year. Walsh has connections to CNA through her work at the Bay St. George Community Employment Corporation. Like Budden, she has won medals provincially, nationally, and internationally, returning from the Special Olympics in Berlin with a bronze medal in the standing long jump.
At the awards ceremony, Walsh said she felt “great, happy, excited” to be named Female Athlete of the Year, adding her favourite thing about the Special Olympics is having fun with her friends.
Budden hopes their incredible success serves as a reminder of the importance of inclusion in sports.
“Special Olympics has not only provided me with a platform to showcase my abilities but has also taught me the significance of accepting and understanding,” he said. “I encourage everyone to support and celebrate the achievement of athletes of all abilities, as it truly makes a difference in creating an inclusive and compassionate society.”
* Video courtesy of Special Olympics Canada
College of the North Atlantic
P: (709) 699-8981