Canada’s Olympic athletes will have a little more incentive to aim for the podium in the future with the launch of a new Athlete Excellence Fund that gives cash rewards to athletes who finish in the top-three. The incentive applies to all Olympic disciplines, and both team and individual sports.
The fund, which was created by the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) using the COC’s own resources, will be applied as early as 2008 at the Beijing Olympic Games. Gold medal winners will receive $20,000, silver medals are worth $15,000, and bronze medals $10,000.
If the fund had applied in the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, athletes would have earned $180,000 for 12 medals — three gold, six silver and three bronze. Winter Olympics are generally more expensive. At the Torino Winter Games in 2006 Canadian athletes earned seven gold medals, 10 silver, and seven bronze, which would have resulted in more than $1.1 million in financial rewards when team sports are included. For example, each member of the champion women’s hockey team would have received $20,000.
Canada’s goal of placing first in the medal count in the 2010 Winter Games, winning roughly 35 medals, will cost the fund a minimum of $350,000 and likely far more when team events are considered.
In 2008, Canada is sending more than 300 athletes to Beijing, with the goal of finishing in the top 16 of participating nations.
Canada is not the first country to offer rewards for medals, following the footsteps of countries like the United States, Australia, Italy, South Korea, and Romania. In the U.S., gold medals are worth $25,000.
The fund will work on a four-year cycle, and will include events other than the Olympics. For example, athletes who place in the top-five in the first two years, or in the top-four in the third year will receive $5,000.
The COC has also applied to Canada Revenue to make the awards tax-free.
“This is the first time in its history that the Canadian Olympic Committee is providing performance awards to athletes who win Olympic medals,” said COC president Michael Chambers. “We’ve taken the concept of excellence funding one step further, and are excited as this program demonstrates our commitment to athlete performance and rewarding excellence.”
Adam van Koeverden, a double medalist in kayaking, was one of the athletes on hand to announce the program, welcomed the new initiative.
“Training for the Olympic Games can be a huge financial burden for athletes and their families,” he said. “Through this fund, the COC is recognizing that burden, and what an incredible asset more Olympic medals will be for our communities and for Canada.”