Athletics Canada targets “potential,” little funding for aging national record holders

Canada's governing body for athletics announced its funding list for next year putting money in the bank for some while leaving others out.

Athletics Canada Funding

Athletics Canada released its annual carding selection naming athletes who will be receiving financial assistance for the 2016/2017 season. Managed by the government’s Sport Canada branch, the Athlete Assistance Program provides elite athletes financial assistance to help cover expenses while training, living and travelling.

The selection for funding is a five-step process, which resembles a trickle-down effect. Given specific criteria, athletes are selected in one of five categories depending on their performance and potential.

Because of finite funding, Athletics Canada can only provide a limited number of athletes with funding. The best athletes, based on their Rio 2016 Olympics performances, and developing athletes, are given highest priority. Sixty-eight athletes were selected for the upcoming year. Multiple Canadian record holders, who competed in Rio, were not selected.

Athletes near the top were finalists or medallists from Rio. Hence, the larger pool of relay athletes. The criteria also notes the “realistic potential” to medal at future international events.

List of athletes and Athletics Canada’s breakdown

How much money?

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According to guideline 8.2 of Sport Canada’s Living and Training Allowance sub-section, “eligible athletes approved for carding by Sport Canada will receive a monthly living and training allowance according to carding status. This allowance is usually paid in advance every two months.” Tuition expenses may also be covered.

Carding Status Monthly Allowance

– Senior Card (SR1, SR2, SR): $1,500
– First-Year Senior Card (C1): $900
– Development Card (D): $900

Omissions

Omitted from the carding list are many of Canada’s top marathon runners, which includes Lanni Marchant, Krista DuChene and Reid Coolsaet. Marchant, 32, is the Canadian women’s marathon record holder and Coolsaet is the second-fastest Canadian men’s marathoner in history. All are over 30, not uncommon for some of the world’s top marathon runners. Rachel Hannah, 30, was selected for marathon funding. She is four minutes slower than DuChene and Marchant in terms of lifetime bests.

Marchant was not surprised to see her name missing from the list as she says there were certain restrictions based on racing both the 10,000m and marathon in previous years. Marchant, who went from a 2:44 marathon to 2:31 from 2011 to 2012, is undecided whether she will appeal as the system “pits athletes against each other.” She wondered outloud, “How do you advocate for yourself without tearing down others?”

A top-20 finish at Rio in the Olympic marathon was key for an athlete to receive funding. Eric Gillis was 10th.

Coolsaet admits that he did not expect to be carded because his 2:10:28 Berlin Marathon time was set outside the eligible window for performances. However, he notes that the one-year window has been shrunk from what it was the previous two years. “The carding program is great overall,” he says. “It’s helped me for many years.”

Friday’s afternoon carding announcement is the second major AC release this month, following the 2017 world championship marathon standards. Coolsaet says that it’s “ridiculous” that Athletics Canada revealed those standards so close to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon knowing athletes there would be gunning for fast times.

Natasha Wodak, the 10,000m Canadian record holder and 10-time national team member, was left off the athlete assistance list. The 34-year-old was left off the 2015/2016 list, appealed, and lost, the decision.

“Older athletes do not stand a chance to get carded,” Wodak says. “Some people who were carded didn’t go to the Olympics. Krista, Reid, Lanni and I all performed well in Rio and they don’t see us being in the top-12 next time. It’s bias. It’s bull. They look at what they want to look at. The head coach has so much power and he gets the final say. It’s crazy.”

Wodak, a resident of Vancouver, says that Athletics Canada continues to use her photo to help promote events despite never having given her “a penny.” “Take that down, you don’t support me.”

Realistic potential

According to steps three, four and five, Athletics Canada uses the term “realistic potential” for upcoming championships to evaluate whether an athlete is worthy of funding. Notable events to come within the next four years include the 2017 world championships (London), the 2019 world championships (Doha, Qatar) and the 2020 Tokyo Games. In step five, calculations are made based on previous performances to differentiate athletes.

When asked about about “realistic potential,” Wodak didn’t mince words. “It’s garbage, you’re not mind readers,” she says.

Athletics Canada use two statistical methods for step five. One is “Bridging the Gap,” which take into account an athlete’s performance versus event progression. The other is “High Performance Pathway,” which is the average seasonal best performances against pathways of the finalists of the previous three global championships.

RELATED: Outrage with Athletics Canada.

Runners Luc Bruchet, Erin Teschuk and Anthony Romaniw, for example, earned points from being an Olympic team member. Since they all scored two points, with one from being on the Rio squad, it’s believed that they can be seen to be “4-5 years out from finalist” at a global event. Nicole Sifuentes scored six points, tied for highest among those selected, in step five to earn carding.

Experience is not mentioned in the criteria as Athletics Canada appears to target and fund youthful athletes who have the potential to perform at the highest level in the future.

Other details

– 17.5 per cent of athletes were selected as part of a relay event.
– Five race walkers are among the athletes selected.
– There are injury cards for specific athletes, which includes Cam Levins.
– Rachel Hannah was the only woman selected in the marathon discipline. She is listed as a first-year senior-carded athlete so she receives $900 per month.
– Thirteen of 68 athletes compete in running events longer than 1,500m.
– Eighteen of 68 athletes compete in field or multi-events.
– Thirty-two of 68 athletes list their training locations outside of Canada.
– Other athletes left off the list include, in no order, Philip Osei, Sheila Reid and Sarah Wells.

A few ? from this morning’s session. Visit our Facebook page for the full photo gallery. ?’s courtesy Laci Perenyi

A photo posted by Athletics Canada (@athleticscanada) on

Some athletes have noted that the process of carding was transparent for this year’s team list. A full breakdown of steps were provided as well as a breakdown of points that contributed to step five of selection.

Many runners rely on sponsorship and endorsements to pad their income. Those not selected for carding will have to find other means to fund their training, living costs and general expenses associated with being an high-calibre athlete. Others, who have more lucrative endorsements, like Andre De Grasse’s $11.25 million contract, continue to receive government funding.

Marchant, who is running the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, says the lack of financial assistance will greatly impact her. “I’m reliant on funding,” she says. “I work part-time for my law firm and only make enough to cover my costs as an attorney. I’ve put my life on hold to do this.”

“If you’re not going to fund me, it might not be my priority to make any championship teams,” Marchant adds.