Bonuses for Paralympic medalists | “It’s more than a check, it’s a symbol”

There are a thousand and one disparities between Olympic and Paralympic athletes. However, by becoming candidates for a fair and equitable performance bonus, Canadian Paralympic medalists can finally breathe easy. The movement seems to be heading in the right direction.

The Canadian Paralympic Committee, in collaboration with its philanthropic partner, the Paralympic Foundation of Canada, announced Wednesday the creation of an initial fund of $8 million. The objective is to reward Paralympic medalists based on the color of their medals, starting with the Paris Games next summer.

In other words, like Olympic medalists, athletes with a physical or mental limitation will also be able to receive a scholarship of $20,000 for a gold medal, $15,000 for a silver medal and 10,000 $ for a bronze medal.

These performance bonuses have already been in effect since the Beijing Games in 2008 for Canadian Olympic medalists.

Benoît Huot has been waiting for this news for ages. The winner of 20 Paralympic medals and new president of Parasports Québec was obviously delighted. However, for the former para swimmer, the recognition and promotion of Paralympians is more important than the amount attached to these medals.

Already, in a file of The Press published in 2022 highlighting this injustice, Huot spoke of “equity, inclusion and equality”. His speech has not changed, despite this gift falling from heaven.

“There have always been disparities, but this was the biggest, the most unfair. This reward is more than a check that comes with medals, it is a symbol,” he said on the phone on Thursday morning.

Aurélie Rivard, the most prolific para-swimmer of her generation, is of the same opinion. “It’s less the money itself than the impact it has in terms of our recognition. We want recognition equal to that of the Olympians. So the financial commitment is step number one,” said the 27-year-old athlete, a few months before his fourth Games.


Para swimmer Aurélie Rivard won five medals at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Too late ?

However, these scholarships will not be retroactive. Huot would have received $135,000 if the Paralympian reward system had been introduced alongside that intended for Olympians in 2008. This amount rises to $315,000 if we take into consideration his entire career.

But for the 40-year-old, there’s no point dwelling on the past. The context and morals were different at the start of his career. “As such, Maurice Richard would have been a millionaire and Gordie Howe would have had a mansion in Detroit! »

He prefers to look forward. The fact remains that he would have seen the color of these thousands of dollars if he had evolved in a completely egalitarian system. “An athlete like Aurélie [Rivard] is going to be lucky, because she might do well this summer, but she left a lot of money on the table” ($165,000 to be exact).

The main interested party started the competition after the famous decision of 2008. This new initiative therefore comes a little too late in her career. “I am a tiny part of a much larger movement,” she adds. Better late than never. I had made peace with the fact that I was never going to receive a bonus. »

Same story with his friend and teammate Nicolas-Guy Turbide, double Paralympic medalist. “I didn’t think it was going to happen during my active career. It took me a little by surprise, especially since it was going to be implemented before the Paris Games. I am happy for the next generations. We are there. »


Para swimmer Nicolas-Guy Turbide at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympic Games

In the same vein, Huot notes how much the movement has progressed since its beginnings in the swimming pool. “We must celebrate this historic moment for Canadian Olympic sport. We have to celebrate victories, and this is one of them. Of course it would have been nice to experience it earlier, but let’s go back to not so long ago. It’s not true that we were in the same place in 2008 as we are today. […] It’s day and night. »

A daily struggle

Aurélie Rivard also told The Press to what extent the word “privilege” was uttered by journalists during the press conference organized on Wednesday.

“It’s not a privilege, it’s normal. Today, it makes no sense for a woman to be paid less than a man. It’s the same thing. Nick [Turbide] and I train with Olympians, we have the same program, we do exactly the same kind of work. »

And so, even if this news concerning performance bonuses marks clear progress in the quest for recognition and fairness for Paralympic athletes, the fight is far from over.

“For me, yesterday’s announcement is just normal, it went without saying,” she continues. It made it very difficult to justify the fact that we would not be paid in 2024.”

The movement has therefore evolved greatly and this is proof, underlines Benoît Huot. 20 years ago, a coach whose name he prefers to keep quiet told him, paraphrasing, that their struggle would never lead to anything. Which was a driving force for the swimmer. “We are taking our place one step at a time. It’s time that does things well, it’s just that it takes a lot of investment, it takes the right people around the discussion tables and people who believe in our mission. »

Now, the stakeholders consulted hope to see this program take off. Ultimately, they fought not for themselves, but for those who would follow.

“It will allow athletes to perform at the highest level,” estimates Nicolas-Guy Turbide, “but also to introduce new athletes who would not have considered this as a career. »

Ultimately, this prosperity is undoubtedly the greatest reward offered to these precursors who devoted their careers to normalizing Paralympism. Beyond the medals, this is undoubtedly their true legacy.

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