Earlier this month, Athletics Canada released its list of the athletes who will receive funding for the 2021/2022 season, based on their performance in 2020 and 2021. The Canadian running community is scratching their collective heads, as a number of accomplished distance runners were left off the list.
In 2018, Ben Preisner was ranked in the top-20 as a senior in the NCAA in his 10,000m event, with a personal best of 29:08. In March of 2019, he represented Canada nationally at the World Cross-Country Championships in Denmark, where he finished as the top Canadian, 76th overall. He followed that with a win at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon, running the eighth-fastest time ever by a Canadian (1:03:08). Then the pandemic hit, and he decided to give the marathon a shot as his only possible chance to qualify for the Olympic Games. He ran 2:10:17, the fourth-fastest time by a Canadian. He was chosen to represent Canada in Tokyo to compete against the world’s top athletes in the marathon.
Preisner will not receive funding for 2021-22 but expressed to us that he has submitted his concerns to Athletics Canada. Here are a few other notable Canadian athletes left off that list.
Malindi Elmore – a two-time Olympian, who ran the 1,500m in Athens 2004, and came out of a seven-year retirement to move up to the marathon for Tokyo 2020. She broke the women’s Canadian marathon record, running 2:24:50 in her second-ever bid at the distance in 2020. Elmore finished ninth in the Olympic Marathon and was the first Canadian to finish, in 2:30:59. (Initially Elmore did not receive funding because she had already received over six years’ worth of support without achieving a top-eight result, per Athletics Canada, but according to her husband and coach, Graham Hood, the situation has been resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned.)
Charles Philibert-Thiboutot – a 1,500m Olympian in Rio 2016, who just missed out on qualification for the 1,500m the 2020 Games. A few weeks later, he clocked a World Championship-qualifying time of 3:34.43 at a meet in California, the second-fastest time by a Canadian in the last three years.
Expert opinion 🙅🏼♂️
Following their policies 🙅🏼♂️
Trust in “High Performance” Committee 🙅🏼♂️
— Lucas Bruchet (@lucabruca) October 15, 2021
Luc Bruchet – a two-time Olympian in the 5,000m. Bruchet ran a 5,000m personal best at the Harry Jerome Track Classic in June of this year, with a time of 13:12.56, 12 seconds faster than his previous best to earn a spot on the 2020 Olympic team. A week later, he won the Canadian title in the 10,000m (28:40).
Athletics Canada (AC) receives money annually from Canadian taxpayers through Sport Canada, a branch of the federal government, and Own the Podium, whose goal is for Canada to be a world leader in high-performance sport at the Olympics and Paralympic Games. Executives at Athletics Canada decide which athletes receive funding. Athletes can apply for funding through Athletics Canada every September.
AC believes that “outstanding physical potential, world-class processes and outstanding mental resilience are required for sustained success at the World and Olympic/Paralympic level.” All of these athletes have exhibited these qualities, so why are they not receiving funding?
We reached out to Athletics Canada, and this was high-performance director Simon Nathan’s response. “The three male athletes were not considered by the selection panel as they are not showing the realistic potential to achieve a top-eight performance at World Championships or Olympic Games in the next six to eight years.”