During the summer of 2008, Canada’s Thomas Hall placed first in the sprint canoeing World Cup competition in Duisburg, Germany, securing his spot at the Beijing Olympics. Hall would go on to win a bronze for Team Canada.
Representing Canada on the podium at an international level brought him sponsorship, and a generous bonus from the Canadian Olympic Committee, but proved to not be enough to pay the bills.
"The Olympics have a weird magic about them.
They cause people to make risky financial
decisions in pursuit of a dream.”
Despite the funding available, many Canadian competitors still find it hard to support themselves while continuing in their sport.
Having retired from the sport five years ago, Hall is still paying off the debt he incurred over his 20 years canoeing.
“It’s no secret that athletes live below the poverty line, so you’re not doing this for the money,” says Hall. “There’s a few that manage to do very well for themselves, but the vast majority of us struggle, and I struggled certainly.”
According to a 2014 report by the Department of Canadian Heritage, the average elite athlete spends 43 per cent of their monthly expenses on sport-related costs. This percentage has been rising consistently since the study began in 1997. The same report states that the average elite athlete sees a monthly short-age of over $1,200 per month - around $15,000 each year.
“The most money I ever made was about $40,000 the year I won the bronze medal at the Olympics,” says Hall. “But that was a very expensive year for me in terms of travelling and training.”
And those expenses become particularly challenging to handle when coupled with the time commitment needed to be an elite athlete.
Hall says the time he devoted to his craft made it impossible for him to work part-time on the side while he was still competing.
Thomas Hall’s story is not new to Haven Toronto. The drop-in centre has helped both professional and amateur athletes including a two-time Canadian Olympian.
Original source: The Calgary Journal