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COC, CPC and Own the Podium to invest $5 million in return to high-performance sports

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees and Own the Podium are looking to help fund a safe return to training for the country's elite athletes

Mohammed Ahmed Photo by: Instagram/Athletics Canada

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees (COC and CPC) and Own the Podium (OTP) have announced a $5 million investment for a phased return to high-performance sport. In a conference call on Monday, representatives from each of these organizations discussed this investment, where the money might be applied and their hopes for elite Canadian athletes and Olympic hopefuls as they slowly work back toward their normal training plans and routines.

Phasing back to normal

David Shoemaker, CEO of the COC, said, “Just as public health was our North Star when Canadian athletes decided to stop training back in March, public health will remain our North Star as we begin a phased-in approach to return to sport.” The COC, CPC and individual National Sport Organizations (NSOs) will “listen closely to medical experts” as athletes, coaches and teams resume training across the country, Shoemaker said.

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“We want to make sure that our athletes are returning to training in a way that’s not just safe for them, but so it’s safe for their families and safe for their communities.”

IOC headquarters in Lausanne. Photo: IOC/Christophe Moratal
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CEO of OTP Anne Merklinger said athletes’ return to sport “will vary greatly” depending on whether they compete in indoor or outdoor sports. “There’s a vast difference in the protocols that need to be followed in indoor sports, outdoor sports, individual sports and team sports,” she said.

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Where’s the money going?

The COC, CPC and OTP representatives on the conference call didn’t say where the $5 million would be allocated. There are almost 60 Olympic and Paralympic sports, and Shoemaker said a “Return to Sport Task Force” will decide which NSOs will receive money and how much they will each get.

“The Return to Sport Task Force recognizes that the nearly 60 sports we compete in in Canada have very different needs,” Shoemaker said. “We’re going to take full guidance from the medical experts and the sport experts to find out how to best optimize the $5 million investment.”

Shoemaker went on to say the money—which has been funded from other unspecified COC and CPC programs—will be prioritized and focused on the organizations’ “greatest need,” which he said is “podium potential.”

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Not enough to go around

It’s unfortunate that NSOs with medal hopefuls may be the sports that receive the bulk or all of the $5 million investment, but it makes sense. With Canadians competing in nearly 60 sports across the Olympics and Paralympics, $5 million isn’t that much money. This is why the COC will be dedicating this investment to a select few, like those medal contenders, rather than spreading it out across dozens of sports for thousands of athletes. If this is the route the Return to Sport Task Force takes, that’s good news for track athletes like Andre De GrasseGabriela DeBues-Stafford and Mohammed Ahmed, all of whom are serious threats for big performances at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.