Road To The Olympic Games

Track and Field

Veteran marathoners Marchant, Coolsaet snubbed by Athletics Canada

Olympian and national record holder Lanni Marchant is questioning the fairness of Athletics Canada's decision to leave her off the list of athletes who will receive financial assistance for the 2016-17 season.

Olympians miss cut for 2016-17 funding

Canada's Lanni Marchant is upset she and other marathoners over 30, unlike athletes in other sports, had a performance requirement placed on them at the Rio Olympics as part of qualifying to be a nationally carded athlete for the 2016-17 season. She could appeal Athletics Canada's decision by Nov. 11. (Mark Humphrey/Associated Press/File)

Lanni Marchant is in another fight with Athletics Canada.

The 32-year-old is upset that she and some other over-30 marathoners, unlike athletes in other sports, had a performance requirement placed on them at the Rio Olympics as part of qualifying to be a nationally carded athlete for the 2016-17 season.

On Oct. 28, Athletics Canada announced 68 athletes had met Sport Canada requirements and would receive financial assistance to help cover expenses while training, living and travelling. Preference goes to athletes who were finalists or medallists at the Rio Games in August, and/or those with "realistic potential" to medal at future international events, among other criteria.

Marchant's name was not on the list, even though in Rio she became the first Canadian ever to complete a 10,000-metre race and a marathon at an Olympics. She needed a top-15 finish in the 10,000 to qualify for Athletics Canada funding and placed 25th, two days before finishing 24th in the marathon in two hours 33 minutes eight seconds.

The London, Ont., runner's personal best of 2:28:00, set in 2013, is also the Canadian record.

Lanni Marchant talks Olympics, Sebastian Coe and the integrity of track and field with Scott Russell 4:52

'It doesn't seem to matter how fast we run'

Marchant argues that, in looking at the documents used to evaluate marathoners, her age puts her within the windows to be a potential finalist at next year's world track and field championships in London, England, in 2019 at Doha, Qatar and at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

She also spoke for two older teammates who didn't make the cut.

"Natasha Wodak [who finished 22nd in the 10,000 in Rio] has never been carded but she had her breakout season last year at 33. Krista DuChene [who's 39] is still the third-fastest Canadian woman [in the marathon] and she ran 2:29:37 in Rio" after battling back from a broken leg suffered during a race in 2014.

"It doesn't seem to matter how fast we run," Marchant says. "It doesn't seem to matter that we're developing in a rather short period of time at this level. We're females, we're vocal and, apparently, we're old."

Among the athletes receiving carding were Rachel Hannah, 30, a relatively new marathoner who won a bronze at last year's Pan Am Games. Her personal-best time of 2:32.09, set last January, is still considerably slower than DuChene's and Marchant's. Hurdler Angela Whyte, 36, was carded after being eliminated in the heats in Rio.

Marchant says she doesn't feel comfortable "picking on another teammate" in fighting for carding, but she must find a way to offset the $1,500 a month in lost funding "plus the thousands of dollars I spend on [physio] treatment." A practising lawyer, Marchant also has a small contract with shoe manufacturer ASICS.

"I understand there are limited funds, but we all should have been evaluated on a level playing field," she says. "We don't know what other parameters are being put on other athletes. We're told, 'accept this restriction or you don't get carded.'"

'Uphill battle'

Marchant, who will compete in this Sunday's New York City Marathon (CBCSports.ca, 9 a.m. ET), has until Nov. 11 to appeal Athletics Canada's decision.

Athletics Canada spokesman Jim McDannald told CBC Sports that head coach Peter Eriksson would comment once the appeals process for carding has concluded.

A year ago, Marchant was successful in having a restriction removed for Olympic qualifying after Athletics Canada told her she needed to finish in the top 15 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Marchant's ongoing battle with Athletics Canada continued into this past summer when Eriksson refused to give her assurance about being entered in both the marathon and 10,000 in Rio. On July 12, Marchant was named to the Canadian squad for both events and went on to finish in the top 25 in both.

"I know there were attempts to remove my funding during that time. I didn't even get to an appeal," says Marchant. "I knew going forward it was going to be an uphill battle for me to be funded."

'I need to make money'

Reid Coolsaet, Canada's second-fastest marathon runner of all time, also didn't receive carding. He posted a 2:10:28 time at the Berlin Marathon just four days before the Oct. 1, 2015 start of qualifying, which ended on Oct. 16 of this year.

It's not an 'eff you, AC' stance. I have a family to support. ... I need to make money.- Canadian marathoner Reid Coolsaet on the allure of prize-money races

The 37-year-old also narrowly missed on qualifying by placing 23rd in Rio (2:14:58) — an improvement on his position from the 2012 London Olympics. Athletics Canada set a top-20 restriction.

By focusing on Rio and foregoing a spring marathon, the Hamilton resident only had one shot at qualifying.

"Athletics Canada used to give a two-year window, which sounds like a lot of time, but I only ran one marathon [in the 2016-17 qualifying period]," says Coolsaet, adding his Berlin time should have an influence on carding.

"In any other event, if an athlete said you get one competition to try to get carded, people would be up in arms."

​​Coolsaet, though, understands the organization's position.

"I honestly think [Athletics Canada] is trying to do the best it can with mixing funding of developmental athletes and funding athletes that deserve it, who are performing."

Coolsaet will run the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan on Dec. 4, and he could race at the world championships in August, hoping for a top-12 or top-15 finish that could get him carded next season. But there's also the allure of appearance and prize money at road races.

"It's not an 'eff you, AC' stance. I have a family to support," says Coolsaet, whose wife, Marie, gave birth the couple's first child in early October.

"I need to make money."

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