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Olympic medallist Thomas Hall takes aim at Own The Podium

For Thomas Hall, standing on the Olympic podium was the moment he’d dreamed of for years.

Sprint canoeist critical of decision to bet big on some athletes and not fund others

Former Olympian Thomas Hall, who won bronze in Beijing, suggested changes to the Own The Podium funding system in an article published in The Walrus magazine. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

For Thomas Hall, standing on the Olympic podium was the moment he'd dreamed of for years.

But now Hall, a sprint canoeist who captured a bronze medal in the 1000-metre event at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, is questioning the Canadian funding system designed to get more athletes into the medals.

Own The Podium (OTP), the agency that divvies up roughly $66 million in annual funding, invests heavily in sports where athletes have the potential to win single or multiple medals. Others get shorter funding commitments, or nothing at all.

Hall said he benefitted from OTP funding, which allowed for the hiring of his coach. But he's concerned that the focus on some sports — rowing, for instance — is leaving other sports underfunded and may be reducing the country's athletic talent pool.

"I think sport in Canada is about more than winning medals," Hall told CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

Hall, who argues his point in the most recent issue of The Walrus magazine, said athletes who have had their funding cut have told him it's a "confidence blow."

For example, in the four years leading up to the Rio Olympics, some sports were given virtually no support while others received major backing:

  • Rowing — $13 million
  • Track and field — $9 million
  • Women's soccer — $6.9 million
  • Beach volleyball — $0

More concerning, Hall said, is that there are fewer young athletes finding their way into sport, which could lead to future struggles as the talent pool gets smaller.

"It's really hard to pay attention to everybody," Hall said, but Canada needs to find a better way to spread the money around.

"We're not going to win 100 medals like the U.S. We're a small country and we work hard and we have amazing athletes," he said.

With files from Metro Morning

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