New Brunswick

National team athletes struggle to make ends meet, Igali says

Olympic gold medal wrestler Daniel Igali says many Canadian athletes live below the poverty line, because they often need to put training before work.

Olympic gold medal wrestler Daniel Igali says many Canadian athletes live below the poverty line, because they often need to put training before work.

Igali is one of 50 national team athletes from across Canada in Fredericton this week, sharing ideas on ways to improve the sporting community in a forum sponsored by AthletesCAN.

Igali says more money is at the top of their list of needs.He says national team athletesearn $1,100 per month,and that forcesmany to take part-time jobs to pay for food and rent. He says that puts training in second place.

"For us, we do that at a national level, we compete for the country," Igali said. "You live on 1,100 bucks a month, so that barely pays for your bills."

Igali, who was Canada's firstmale wrestling medallist when he won gold in Sydney in 2000,spent Thursday meeting students at Oromocto High School, and taking on members of the school wrestling team.

He was treated like a celebrity and role model,which he says is ironic. He says he might be well-known, but he's not sure many of the students would like his lifestyle.

Eric Peterson of the Canadian national diving team agrees, and says lots of young athletes stop pursuing their sport when they reach university, not just because they're financially strapped, butbecause they don't have enough time to dedicate to training.

"I think it's very difficult for a national team athlete to train full-time,[the]20 to 25hours a week required to represent Canada proudly, while studying full-time. And so one of the biggest hurdles is a simple thing like scheduling."

Peterson sayshe wants moreco-operation between universities and the Canadian sport system. The forum ends on Sunday.

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