Dontae Richards-Kwok, Canadian runner, competing for more than medals
Canadian relay racer aiming for much-needed funding
Medals bring more than just glory to an athlete, they can also bring some much-needed funding.
And for Dontae Richards-Kwok, who will compete on Friday night, that is exactly what a bronze medal in the 4x100-metre relay at the 2013 world championships provided for him as he gained support from the Athlete Assistance Program (AAP).
According to the policy, the AAP is a federal government program administered by Sport Canada that provides financial assistance and tuition support to high performance athletes.
Usually referred to as 'carding,' the program is designed to help an athlete with his or her living and training costs.
"Carding is pretty much national funding. Every other month you will get whatever the level of carding you're supposed to get," said Richards-Kwok in an interview room at the athlete's village. "So development athletes will get an amount and top-tier athletes will get more."
The two events that count towards an athlete's chance to get carded are the world championships and the Olympic Games. Earning a medal in either event virtually guarantees a card, but there are other ways to get one depending on how you finish based on the different track events.
For the 26-year-old Mississauga, Ont., native, his carding from the 2013 world's comes to an end at the conclusion of this 2014-2015 season. He hopes to get back on the relay team for the upcoming world's with a good performance at the Pan Am Games here in Toronto, and other upcoming races.
"Funding as carding makes it so you don't have to get a second job on the side, you can dedicate yourself to just training," said Richards-Kwok.
There are other avenues on top of carding that athletes can take in order to support themselves as well; scholarship programs such as CANFUND, the RBC Olympians Program and CIBC Team Next are just a few.
"People do crowd funding these days, too," said Richards-Kwok. "People have to raise money however they can or depend on family or other jobs, it's hard."
A hot topic
Funding for amateur athletics in Canada has always been a hot topic, it seems as though there is never enough money to go around. In 2013-2014 the federal government's Sport Canada provided an all-time high of nearly $198 million to amateur sports, which was broken up between the Athlete Assistance Program (28 million), the Sport Support Program (146 million) and the Hosting Program (20 million).
"Winning is, I feel a combination of the athletes themselves, how gifted they are, how much they want to work but also, what kind of support they get, what facilities they have to train at," said Richards-Kwok.
Especially in a sport such as track and field that is difficult to train for in Canada with the ever-changing seasons, the team must be able to travel to hotter destinations to be able to practise outdoors.
"Funding definitely does help, it makes a big difference," said Richards-Kwok. "Especially in Canada where we can't just go outside and run."
"Even with my group, having help for some people to get to training camp this year was great."
Make some noise
As for the Pan Am Games, Richards-Kwok is competing in the 4x100m men's relay and hopes to win a medal on home turf on Saturday.
"We all feel really good about it," said Richards-Kwok. "This is the first year where we can actually make some noise on the world scene.
"It's always been the U.S. or Jamaica, but then this year we can do some damage."
Richards-Kwok plans to continue on competing at least for the next few years with ideas of maybe one day going back to school to get his kinesiology degree (he already has a psychology degree from York) or pursue a career in broadcasting.
But the one thing on his mind? A spot on the coveted 2016 Olympic Rio team, especially after he had to miss the 2012 Games in London due to a torn hamstring going into Canadian trials.
"I've made every team except the Olympic team. I want to make that Olympic team," he said.
"I've been to so many places I never would have gone to, met a bunch of people from all over the world and stuff like this [the Pan Ams]. it's nice."