Canadian Paralympians hail $1.2 million donation as step towards equality in bonus with Olympians nationwide

Nearly 200 Canadian athletes benefit from medals won at the Games in Tokyo and Beijing thanks to a major donation from a Canadian entrepreneur.

Sanjay Malaviya, a Canadian health-tech entrepreneur, is donating $1.2 million to support Team Canada athletes, which means 130 Olympians and 53 Paralympians who won medals at their respective Games in Tokyo and Beijing will receive $5,000 each.

“Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes have inspired and united us during a very difficult time,” Malaviya said in a statement. “It’s an honor to be able to celebrate their accomplishments and invest in their future.”

For Canadian Olympians, the $5,000 will be added to the money they already receive from the Canadian Olympic Committee for winning medals — $20,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for gold.

This contrasts with Canadian Paralympians who have traditionally received nothing for their medals, as the Canadian Paralympic Committee does not have a similar program.

“Great to be included”

Thus, the importance of this equal payment for medals does not escape six-time Paralympian Billy Bridges, who has just won silver with the Para ice hockey team in Beijing.

“It’s great to be included in the conversation. What Sanjay has done is absolutely amazing, and I hope it helps the inclusion of Paralympians in the future,” Bridges said. “My fellow Paralympians have such inspiring stories and have been through so much before they even got to the Games.

“It’s so nice to see them rewarded for their sporting efforts, on par with the Olympians for once.”

Additionally, $100,000 will go to the NextGen program to help support future Olympians and Paralympians. The donation is made through the Canadian Olympic Foundation and the Paralympic Foundation of Canada.

Para-Nordic skier Mark Arendz won four medals at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games to bring his career tally to 12.

“On behalf of all my fellow Paralympians from Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022, a huge thank you to Sanjay for this gift,” Mark Arendz, a four-time Paralympic Nordic skier who won four medals in Beijing, said in a statement. “This is an important step forward in recognizing Canadian Paralympians who work and train so hard to compete on the world stage.

“I am optimistic that Sanjay’s generosity will serve as a catalyst for greater equality for the Canadian athletes with a disability who so proudly represent our country.”

The COC’s bonus program, called the Athlete Excellence Fund, is funded entirely by its own marketing sponsorships, separate from the CPC. Each organization governs everything related to their respective Games.

CPC CEO Karen O’Neill told CBC Sports in March that her organization didn’t donate money for the medals because it chose to use its funds — including $6 million a year from the federal government – ​​to improve the infrastructure necessary for para-athletes to train and compete.

Canadian Mark Arendz celebrates his gold medal in the standing Nordic middle distance at the Beijing Olympics in March. (AP)

CPC declares medal fund a priority

But she said Wednesday the CCP is significantly healthier now, allowing the organization to focus on things like a medal fund.

“You now have people who want to make a personal statement and a personal commitment to the things that matter,” O’Neill told CBC Sports. “The gap between this and recognition is such a symbol. For Sanjay and his family, this commitment is nothing short of phenomenal.

“It’s such a statement. It’s inspiring. And for our athletes, there’s such an appreciation to be recognized and recognized in this way.”

O’Neill said the CPC has had a number of conversations over the past few days with sponsors who understand the importance of establishing and sustaining the medal fund.

“We’ve had side conversations over the last few days with our sponsors and in principle almost every one of them we’ve spoken to understands this, wants to get on board and recognizes Canada’s top athletes.”

Pascale St-Onge, Canada’s Minister of Sport, said the federal government has made parasport a priority for years, pointing to the $6 million it contributes annually to the CPC compared to $800,000 to the COC.

“Our mandate and that of the CPC is to build the careers of athletes and to help them in their training, their travels and so that they can perform,” said St-Onge. “There needs to be a culture shift in our society to ensure that our Paralympians are recognized and celebrated as much as Olympians.”

St-Onge said she has had conversations with the CPC to ensure a fund to financially reward Paralympians for medals is established.

“I make it a priority to find solutions with the CPC because I don’t want this inequity to continue between Olympians and Paralympians,” she told CBC Sports. “This needs to be fixed. I want to make sure that on the international stage, Canada is still seen as a very inclusive and progressive country.”