No Olympic medals may mean funding cut for Nova Scotia elite paddlers
Team did not gain any medals in canoeing or kayaking at the Rio Olympics
The Nova Scotia paddling community is bracing for possible funding cuts for its elite athletes after the team did not gain any medals in canoeing or kayaking at the Rio Olympics.
"I think it looks pretty bleak right now," said Chris Chiasson, head coach at the Mic Mac Canoe Club.
"Four years ago we did very, very well. We were one of Canada's top sports in terms of collecting medals. Now, with our best place of finish being seventh, it's going to change. Things are going to change in the next year, I would say."
Chiasson said a loss of funding for the sport could translate into fewer opportunities for younger athletes, though it would be felt less at the club level.
"But you could probably expect some cuts in funding for our top tier athletes. And it'll be things like going away to training camps and help supporting them in different ways. That's where we might see the hit," he said.
Top-tier athletes who get assistance could also receive up to $1,500 a month, which Chiasson said is designed to allow them to make sport training a full-time job.
No medals in Rio
In the London 2012 Olympics, Canada's paddlers took three medals: two bronze and a silver from Mark de Jonge, Mark Oldershaw, and Adam van Koeverden. In the four years leading up to the Rio Olympics, paddlers received $10.3 million across Canada.
Over the weekend, two Nova Scotian Olympians had an opportunity to earn a medal but did not achieve it. One was de Jonge, who was hoping to defend his bronze medal title and came seventh.
"I'm pretty disappointed. Seventh isn't really where I'd seen myself coming into this thing. But realistically it's not far off," de Jonge told The Canadian Press after the race.
Clubs still proud of athletes
"I didn't really have the best World Cup season in Europe in May and June. I was really hoping that was just kind of a random thing that was happening where I wasn't firing on all cylinders but it appears that that was a season-long thing. I just didn't have it today, unfortunately."
Another Nova Scotia paddler was Genevieve Orton, who made it to the final along with her team in the women's kayak four 500-metre race. Orton's team placed eighth.
At her home club in Lake Echo, members are preparing to welcome her home Tuesday.
"Overwhelmingly proud. That's the highlight," said Corey Firth, the head coach at Orenda Canoe Club. Firth coached Orton earlier in her career.
"Watching a girl like Genny grow up in the sport — the highs, and the lows, and then the highs. Ending on a super note, the apex, the Olympics," he said.
Firth said he's not sure what the paddling results mean for funding.
"It is Own the Podium, so you've got to be on the podium to be funded."
Factors for funding
But Firth said Sport Canada funding, which is commonly known as "carding" for athletes, does not always determine results.
"If money was the only thing, Genny wouldn't have gone to the Olympics. She was uncarded last year. She was uncarded two years ago when she had a child. So she made it work," he said.
A spokesperson for Canoe-Kayak Canada said the organization's funding is based on a number of factors, including Olympic results. He said planning is done on a long-term basis, and it is too early to say how funding might be affected.
High performance review
Peter Giles, national president of Canoe-Kayak Canada, said he thinks the sport has a strong case to make to Own the Podium for 2020, pointing to athletes like Mark de Jonge, the women's canoe discipline coming into the fold and strong paddlers at the junior level.
"I think we will have a pretty good case to make to Own The Podium that we do have that potential for 2020 and beyond," said Giles.
Giles said Canoe-Kayak Canada's CEO initiated a high performance review with Own the Podium's involvement along with some independent reviewers to figure out what needs improvement.
"Partly it's about the leadership structure, the coaching structure and how we provide technical leadership and technical construction for our athletes," he said.
They'll also look at the training environment and infrastructure.
In an e-mailed statement to CBC News, Own the Podium said it's too soon to say how funding could be affected for canoe and kayak based on the results in Rio. The organization said the next funding recommendations will be released by January 2017.
Athletes 'rewarded' for medals
Former CBC veteran sports broadcaster Steve Armitage told CBC's Maritime Noon that Own the Podium money is based on success in international competition. Armitage said that athletes who do well are rewarded as a result of the medals.
"It also works the opposite for sports that go down with high expectations, in terms of medals or world rankings, and come away with no medals," he said.
"That will certainly apply to two sports that are very close to Maritimers and Nova Scotians — paddling, kayaking, and rowing. They did not have a great Olympics, and as a result, they will lose some of their funding."
With files from The Canadian Press and Maritime Noon