Runners point out flaws in Athletics Canada’s ‘hard’ fundraising program



Charles Philibert-Thiboutot set personal bests in four outdoor events this year – his first full and healthy season in recent memory – and was confident he had earned his place in Athletics Canada’s funded athlete program.

The middle distance runner believed his place was still secured on July 25 when he finished under the automatic qualifying standard of three minutes and 35 seconds in the 1,500 meters for next year’s world championships.

But on September 24, Philibert-Thiboutot was not among the 79 able-bodied track and field athletes officially announced as part of the enhanced funding program of the Canadian Track and Field Performance Pathway, while five young runners of 1,500 without the 2022 standard have been added.

“Since 1990, only myself and five others [1,500] athletes have qualified for a major championship, ”said the Quebec native, pleading his case in a recent interview with CBC Sports. [a world championship]. These facts were ignored [by AC].

“You have athletes running 3:37, 3:38 and 3:39 [on the program]. Eight times I ran under Cameron [Proceviat’s] PB [of 3:37.31]. When you look at the facts and statistics, I don’t see how they could justify not being part of the program. “

Athletics Canada High Performance Director Simon Nathan, while stating that he would not comment on specific athletes, told CBC Sports that the CAPP program “is for athletes who we believe have the realistic advantage of [place] top eight over the next six to eight years at the World Championships or the Olympics.

“It’s a strong and hard system and there is nothing to hide, but I think it’s fair [and] fair. We take the athletes who show the most potential. “

Thirty of the 79 athletes enrolled in the program through September 30, 2022 are at the developmental level and considered by Athletics Canada to have the potential to place in the top eight in six to eight years.

Some of them are deemed eligible for a monthly stipend of $ 1,060 under the Athlete Assistance Program (Carding) of Sport Canada, a branch of the federal government that annually sends taxpayer money to AC. Canadians “to improve opportunities for all Canadians to participate and excel.” in sport.”

Monthly allowance for patent status

  • Senior certificate (SR1, SR2, SR) $ 1,765
  • Senior Injury / Illness Card (IRS) $ 1,765
  • Senior first year card (C1) $ 1,060
  • Development board (D) $ 1,060

Source: Athletics Canada

But every year, Philibert-Thiboutot estimated, five to 10 athletes fail to show the required progress on the development side and never reappear in the CAPP program while he and other established athletes, including the 2020 Olympians, are “consciously discarded”.

The remaining 49 athletes in the CAPP program are comprised of Senior Athletes (SR) who have made Olympic appearances and those designated as Senior 1 (SR1) – those who have finished in the top eight at the World Championships or Olympic Games such as Andre De Grasse, Damian Warner, Moh Ahmed, Gabriela DeBues-Stafford and Pierce LePage.

Luc Bruchet, distance runner Kate Van Buskirk and Philibert-Thiboutot are part of a group of experienced athletes who have failed to return to the CAPP program for this funding cycle. Although they have yet to win a medal at the World Championships or the Olympics, they have had a career best season in 2021.

“Cutting out veteran athletes creates a big gap in the performance of people like [2020 Olympic medallists] Moh Ahmed, Andre De Grasse and Damian Warner to development athletes, ”said Philibert-Thiboutot. “The reason developmental athletes get better is because they have people [like me, Luc and Kate] hunt. “

Luc Bruchet is not one of the athletes funded by Athletics Canada despite falling 12 seconds off his personal best in the 5,000 meters to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics last summer and demonstrating improved speed and endurance by establishing personal bests in the 1,500 mile, 5 km and 10K. (Submitted by Canada Running Series)

“What pisses me off is the medal or nothing mentality,” added Bruchet, who was most recently on the CAPP program in 2018 before breaking his left foot that year and into 2019. “[Athletics Canada] focuses on a few athletes with medal potential and others who have shown insight. How does this help create a competitive program? “

This year, the 30-year-old lost 12 seconds off his personal best in the 5,000 to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and demonstrated improved speed and endurance by clocking his best times in the 1,500, mile, 5 km and 10 km.

“I considered a call [which costs $250] corn [AC] twists his narrative to fit his extremely subjective policies, ”the part-time Vancouver physical education and health teacher said in a telephone interview.

“I think they want the athletes to improve, not just in their main event. Should I start javelin as well?”

Philibert-Thiboutot, who was one of a handful of athletes whose appeal was dismissed by the Athletics Canada Commissioner, cited section 2.2 of the CAPP Criteria to help explain the challenge athletes are facing. confronted to build a solid case.

He refers to the assessment of an athlete’s realistic ability to progress in sport and states that it is “a subjective exercise based on a combination of available evidence, expert opinion, objective performance data and statistical modeling ”. Execution of a PB, progress, resilience, performance readiness, skills, etc. are also part of the objective data taken into account.

“Due to the subjectivity clause, there is no way for us [athletes] prove that the [selection] the panel did not follow [its own] policies, “said Philibert-Thiboutot,” and gives them the right to choose whoever they want, even if statistics and objective information run counter to their choices. “

AC on Preisner’s first marathon: “decent”

Ben Preisner, a promising marathon runner from Milton, Ont., Is not backed by CAPP despite a time of 2:10:17 on his debut at the Marathon Project last December in Arizona and a 46th place finish as this year’s top Canadian in men’s Olympic marathon (he had a pre-race rank around 80).

In his unsuccessful appeal, the 25-year-old said he argued that the first average marathon of the top eight runners in each major championship since 2001 is 2:11:01 at the age of 24.7.

“The average early PB progression for these runners was 3% in 4.4 years, so if I have progressed on average, I’m fine within striking distance to be. [inside] the top eight within four to five years, ”said Preisner, who works part-time as a data analyst when not training, in an emailed statement to CBC Sports. “However, the [AC selection committee] suggested my first marathon was “decent”.

Preisner, who is preparing to compete in the Valencia Marathon on December 5, also told Athletics Canada that an objective way to determine which athletes to select is to rank them based on how close their PBs are to the “Top 8”. organisation. standard described in its criteria.

To support the selection process, Nathan said Athletics Canada uses “analytics” based on data collected by Canadian Tire, a sponsor of the Canadian Olympic Committee. It includes performance data (competition results) of the top eight athletes in each event of 10 World Championships and four Olympic Games since 2001.

Based on percentage over standard, Preisner determined he would top the list of currently registered CAPP “international” athletes that AC judges four to six years after finishing in the top eight. (see table below).

Marathon runner Ben Preisner said Athletics Canada has never explained why it has chosen other athletes to be part of its funded athlete program for next year, even though it appears to be fulfilling a good part of the criteria. (Submitted by Ben Preisner)

“I believed, and still believe, that Athletics Canada held me at a higher level for their ‘criteria’ or did not use the same criteria for internationally selected athletes,” said Preisner, who lives at Vancouver and works remotely. on her Masters in Artificial Intelligence from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

“I have never been given an explanation of how other athletes have been selected before me, other than that each is considered independently and has a unique case. The process must be objective and transparent so as not to generate distrust of the governing body of our sport. “

Philibert-Thiboutot, who has received messages of support from off-piste athletes “who have fallen victim to discretionary and subjective clauses,” said it would take a coalition with the councils of athletes from all sports to attempt to do so. the difference to Sport. Canadian level so that athletes are funded more equitably.

Van Buskirk is one of two able-bodied athlete directors with Philibert-Thiboutot on the Athletics Canada 12 Athlete Council. As an unsponsored athlete who has incurred more than $ 10,000 in debt this year to prepare for her Olympic debut in Tokyo, she understands the concerns of athletes, but believes AC administrative staff are acting in a way to ensure the success of Canadian athletes.

“I heard criticism from athletes about the funding system, how it worked and who was included,” said Van Buskirk, who last attended CAPP in 2018 before having injury issues. , on the phone from Toronto. “I hope the athlete’s voice will continue to be heard and that these athlete complaints and concerns will be taken seriously. I think there is an openness to that.”

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