The intangibles involved in every high-performance athlete's success are
too numerous to name. Desire, passion, ambition, diligence... the list is
a mile long and well beyond that.
But the bottom line is not negotiable. Money is required.
are travel costs, coaching salaries, physiotherapy requirements and
entry fees, just to name a few of the expenses each and every athlete
encounters along the way to pursuing his or her career.
For most of these sports men and women, the ledger is always in the red.
funding, while generous, is not fully sufficient, and that means
finding creative ways to fuel the dream. Sometimes athletes are forced
to dig into their family's pocket. Others work full- or part-time jobs
while juggling the demands of training. Very few, and only those at the
very top of the ladder, enjoy the benefits of corporate sponsorship.
Enter a new way to directly fund athletes called Pursu.it (www.pursu.it
a web-based approach designed by Julia Rivard - a Canadian canoe-kayak
athlete who competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics - and former
competitive gymnast Leah Skerry, and operated out of Halifax.
idea is to provide a platform whereby fans and potential supporters of a
specific athlete can provide a helping hand over the internet. In
return, no tax receipt is given, but rather a promise by the athlete to
provide a "give-back" according to the level of funding.
there are five Canadian athletes involved in the first run of the
platform's test to see if Canadians will support it. They include
snowboarder Alex Duckworth, triathlon's Andrew Yorke, golfer Jeff Bishop
and two-time Olympic 1,500 -metre runner Nate Brannan. The most
response so far has been garnered by alpine skier Larisa Yurkiw of Owen
Yurkiw is a rising star on the Canadian downhill team
but is still working on a comeback after a devastating knee injury that
caused her to miss the 2010 Olympics. She's been a medallist at the
world junior championships and has cracked the top 10 on the World Cup
circuit. In other words, she has potential. That being said, her team
fees for this season amount to $20,000, and in the absence of a
corporate sponsor she's got to pay the freight herself.
fund-raising goal on the Pursu.it page is exactly $20,000, and Yurkiw is
more than halfway there. Her givebacks to supporters range from
printing the name of her sponsors on the ski suit she'll race in at Lake
Louise "so we can cross the finish line together," to hand-crocheted
toques, to promising to wear a personal or company logo on her helmet
for the balance of the season if the gift reaches a certain level.
made so many connections with people who want to support my career and
my comeback," Yurkiw said of the Pursu.it experience so far. "To think
that they want to be a part of that wild ride that last two minutes is
heartwarming. It's endearing."
The approach is unique and very
personal and breaks new ground in the sports funding model in Canada. It
hopes to take advantage of a desire by fans to become involved in the
journey or story of an athlete they can identify with.
past there hasn't been a way to directly support Canadian athletes,"
Skerry points out. "This is a personal and direct investment in an
athlete and, in effect, by supporting them, you become a part of their
Three weeks into the test run, Skerry noted the response
to Pursu.it has been positive but it has yet to pick up steam. She
hastened to add that, while the platform is there, athletes should not
expect to receive generous support without giving something in return.
have to come up with unique ways to connect with sponsors as Larisa
Yurkiw has," Skerry said. "It's also a new way for them to think about
performing. It's 100 per cent on them to drive it and give back and earn
"There's no doubt we're playing with fire,"
Yurkiw said of the risky career she pursues as a ski racer. She's bright
and articulate and will no doubt be prosperous once her athletic career
For now she's bridging the gap with the help of
pursu.it. She's making a connection with her fans who want to ignite her
journey to success.
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