Canada is putting an additional $5 million a year toward providing aspiring Olympic and Paralympic athletes with financial support, as well as access to quality coaching and training facilities, the federal government announced Friday.
Carla Qualtrough, the minister of sport and persons with disabilities, revealed the new funding, which is part of the Sport Support Program, at a press conference in Toronto.
"Our government is proud to support our next generation of high performers in competitive sport while they pursue their path to the international podium," said Qualtrough.
"And we are pleased to provide these athletes with the resources they need so that they are better prepared in every way — physically, mentally, technically and tactically — when they arrive at the level of top international competition."
The money will be earmarked for up-and-coming athletes who compete in Olympic and Paralympic sports. It will go toward the hiring of additional coaches, improving training regimes and investing sports science and medicine, said Qualtrough.
COC to match contribution
The government had previously announced that it would commit $5 million annually over just the next four years to "NextGen" athletes. The Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee have committed to matching that funding over the same period through private-sector backers.
A spokesperson for the COC told CBC Sports on Thursday that the Royal Bank of Canada is the first corporate sponsor of the program, but could not confirm the details of the agreement.
"This new funding means that truly promising athletes, whatever their means or background, can find the financial support they need to pursue their Olympic dreams," Chris Overholt, the chief executive officer of the COC, said at the press conference Friday.
Shot putter Sarah Mitton and wheelchair basketball player Elodie Tessier were also on hand for the announcement.
Mitton — who hails from Brooklyn, N.S., and is a student at the University of Windsor — stressed that the new funding will mean athletes, such as herself, won't have to worry about living expenses and can dedicate more of their money to preparing for competition.
"It means, based on merit, someone like me can get the financial help they need to pay for training, coaching, equipment and travel to competitions," she said.
"It means that a promising athlete like me won't be held back because we have to choose between paying rent or paying our trainer. And I'll tell you, me and other NextGen athletes are going to train and compete as hard as we can to repay your investment in us."
Tessier echoed Mitton's statements, adding that the money will assist athletes who need specialized gear, therapy and training that aren't readily available and come at a "considerable expense."
"This funding means getting closer to my Paralympic dream of being able to concentrate on training and becoming the best in the world and also making you all proud," she said.