It is already difficult for an Olympic athlete to find sponsors and cater to them. The task is overwhelming for a Paralympic athlete.
To be a part of the Canadian wheelchair basketball team, Cindy Ole must pay an annual fee of about $2,000 from her own pocket.
This is just one example.
“Tell yourself we have to spend on our sport,” she says. A basketball wheelchair is $15,000. »
The 34-year-old has devoted most of the past 17 years to a low-paying sports career.
In his photos, two things are amazing. His broad smile first. So his big hands.
Hands holding weights, balls, wheelchair wheels, and ski poles. And life above all.
She was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 12, which caused her to lose the use of her left leg.
“Surely my life has taken, by a little bit, a turning point of change,” she expressed in a colossal understatement that says a lot about her resilience.
An athlete since childhood, she started playing sports at the age of fifteen. At 17, she was accepted into the national wheelchair basketball team.
She has competed with the Canadian team at the Paralympic Games in 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020 (in 2021). She very much intends to put another ball in the basket in Paris in 2024.
“That’s my country job Main ”
She conducted this telephone interview on Friday, February 3 from her home in the Quebec City area. The next day, she has to fly for a week and a half in Japan, where she has to participate in a basketball tournament. “That’s my country job She said.
The Canadian team pays for the trip to Japan, “but when tournaments aren’t allowed, we pay.”
She also pays for her training in CrossFit, hockey, skiing, and boxing.
I have maintained this diet for 17 years.
And when you start, we agree that you don’t have that support from the national team and you don’t have a salary either. To get to the highest level, you have to pay.
And that’s what I did?
She replied, “Actually, my parents.”
“I have really good parents who have always supported me through it all. They have never seen me different. That is what allowed me, I think, to continue in sports.”
Student and sports debt
“I’ve always been at school specifically to prepare for what’s next in my career, because we accumulate more debt than money while we’re in our sport.”
school ? This is another euphemism steeped in humility.
“I was in the US for 11 years,” she says. I got my baccalaureate, two masters and the beginning of my doctorate there. »
Recruited by the wheelchair basketball team at the University of Alabama, she moved to the United States at the age of 17, halfway through college, because no Canadian university offered this program.
Tuition fees for her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees were covered by her scholarships. But “the food, the apartment, the equipment, I’m the one who paid,” she says.
Then, she attended the University of Southern California for her master’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering. Without a scholarship this time: “I have accumulated about $100,000 in debt.”
Income that does not always return
income? In the off-season, she devotes a few hours each week to her parents’ business, Evo Concept, which designs and manufactures modified sports equipment.
She also works with the anti-bullying organization Sport’aide de Québec. During the off-season, it attempts to field two to four conferences per month, organized by its agent Dominique Ladouceur.
Performance Bégin sports store in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures presents him with his winter gear.
She is also sponsored by Citi and Toyota, who gave her her car.
“It’s not free money,” she says. I have to give talks, participate in interviews with them, and do it supports Online. It still works. »
In short, you are not paid for training.
But it dispersed immediately.
Of course I am very lucky to have this. When you are a Paralympic athlete, it adds a layer to the difficulty of getting money and scholarships compared to an Olympic athlete.
She points out that while the Olympic Games are broadcast 24 hours a day for two weeks, the Paralympic Games are almost absent from the screens.
“Certainly the visibility of companies that support Paralympic athletes is really lower. »
With a Canadian patent, tax credits, and sponsors, you estimate to raise $50,000 annually.
“When you’ve made $40,000 plus $10,000 in sponsorships, that’s a big year.”
This does not prevent her from owning a small house in Quebec, which she built with her father to reduce costs. “It’s a great project that my dad and I were thinking of.”
Still fuels other projects.
“I will be starting another PhD in neuroscience in September here in Quebec,” she declares.
At the same time, she plans to put her sports career on ice. In her own way: She wants to coach at para hockey in hopes of making the Canadian team at the 2026 Games.
“We have a good chance of winning a medal. I want to focus on that for next year. That’s why we’re looking a little bit more for sponsors at the moment. I’d like to reduce my working hours to focus more on my training. And finish my PhD.”
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