More N.B. athletes could go for gold in 2016
Sports organizations say more provincial government funding will help
Only two New Brunswickers are among the more than 200 athletes representing Canada at the Olympic Games in London, but there is optimism among local sports organizations that number could improve by the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Catharine Pendrel, who now lives in B.C., will be competing in mountain biking and Dave Durepos, of Fredericton, will compete in wheelchair basketball.
The provincial government has provided more than $150,000 for 80 high-performance athletes in New Brunswick this year to help them with training and competition, said Darcy McKillop, director of Sport NB, an umbrella group that oversees athletics in the province.
"You know, 2016, 2020, for the Olympics, you'll probably see more New Brunswick athletes I would think."
According to figures from the provincial government, the budget for sports in New Brunswick has increased by 25 per cent each year — an annual increase of almost $700,000.
Funding is usually the biggest hurdle for New Brunswick athletes and more could help, said McKillop.
"That funding will also help us develop higher level coaching in the province. More athletes will be able can stay here to train as opposed to moving off to other parts of the country," he said.
"Money being put into coaching, money just being put into capacity-building for the sporting organizations is all a big help and you know, eventually it will all work its way into the system to help develop those athletes."
Meaghan Donahue, athlete and coach services co-ordinator for the Canadian Sport Centre, Atlantic, agrees.
"We've made really big strides in the last few years. We’re up to similar, comparable levels as some of the bigger provinces now, which is exactly where we need to be," she said.
"It’s going to take some time, but we'll see those dividends paid down the road for sure."
Eric Faunekles, a 23-year-old champion wrestler from Fredericton, is hoping to be among the beneficiaries.
Feunekes, who has won medals on the national and international stage, has set his sights on the 2016 Olympics.
"A gold medal at the Olympics is what everyone wants right?"
But Faunekles is currently a psychology student with bills to pay.
"I still have to graduate, I have to get through school, so I have to pay for stuff, and just things like that makes it a bit tougher," he said.