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Island Paralympians welcome initiative to level compensation for medals with Olympians

Canadian Paralympics medallists will now receive $20,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze
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Liam Stanley runs at Centennial Stadium in 2020. KEVIN LIGHT, ATHLETICS CANADA

Island Para athletes welcomed Wednesday’s announcement that they will receive the same monetary remuneration for medals won at the Paralympics as those won by their Canadian compatriots in the Olympics. The program goes into effect this year for the Paris Paralympics.

Canadian Paralympics medallists will now receive $20,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze, to bring them level with what Canadian Olympic medallists receive.

“I think it’s great that Para athletes are being recognized for the same accomplishments as the able-bodied athletes are,” said runner Liam Stanley of Victoria, who won the 1,500-metre ambulatory silver at the 2016 Rio Paralympics and was fifth in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics behind gold medallist Nate Riech of Victoria.

Several Island Para athletes appear poised to be rewarded at Paris 2024 based on results at the lead-in 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games and 2023 Santiago Para Pan American Games. Island athletes won six medals, — a gold and five silvers — at the 2023 Para Pan Am Games in Santiago through gold and silver medallist cyclist Mel Pemble of Victoria, silver medallist wheelchair rugby players Trevor Hirschfield of Parksville and Byron Green of Merville, and silver medallist Victoria runners Stanley and Michael Barber. Swimmer Nicholas Bennett of Parksville won gold and triathlete ­Jessica Tuomela and guide Emma Skaug, both of Victoria, won bronze in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

“While it’s not my main motivation, it’s nice to be rewarded the same as able-bodied athletes,” said Stanley.

Canadian Paralympic Committee president Marc-André Fabien labelled it a “historic day for Paralympic sport in Canada and the cumulation of years of work to create a more equitable, inclusive space for Canada’s Paralympians to compete.”

Federal Minister of Sport and Physical Activity Carla Qualtrough said: “The initiative is a game-changer for Paralympic sport in Canada, recognizing the incredible amount of work, commitment, and resources required to compete at a world-class level. It is fantastic to know that today’s Paralympians and the next generation of athletes to come will receive this much-deserved equitable recognition for their performances.”

The funding will come from an initial $8-million endowment created by the CPC’s philanthropic arm, the Paralympic Foundation of Canada, which will launch the Paralympic Performance Recognition program and ensure sustainable funding. The major donor to the program is Sanjay Malaviya, a healthcare technology entrepreneur, who is contributing 50 per cent of the funds through the Malaviya Foundation. The federal government is contributing $2 million. The final $2 million will be raised.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com