A Mom’s Selfless Decision To Fund Her Daughter’s Dream.
“I was raised by a single mother, and we only had cable during the Olympics, so to me the Olympics were the most amazing feat I’d ever seen.”
Watching the 2000 Sydney Games when she was 5 years old, Eleanor Harvey decided that one day she was going to be an Olympian. Her mom competed in Ironman triathlons, and every morning at 6am before work she would go running and push Eleanor in the jogging stroller until she was old enough to bike beside her, and eventually to run alongside her. So, the natural path to becoming an Olympian seemed to be through running. But at 8 years old she tried Karate after qualifying to attend free classes at her local YMCA. She fell in love with Karate and two years later watching Athens 2004 was devastated to learn that Karate wasn’t yet a part of the Olympic program. To pursue her dream, she would have to find a new sport. Upon the suggestion of a family friend who heard a radio interview with Canada’s most decorated fencer 4x Olympian, and multiple CAN Fund recipient Sherraine Schalm, Eleanor decided to try fencing. She knew instantly that this was the sport she was meant to do.
Today, at 27 years old she is a two-time Olympian, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, and is the first Canadian fencer to win a Grand Prix medal and make it to a World Cup final!
However, her journey hasn’t come without challenges. She made her first national team at 15 years-old but travel to competitions, training and equipment was completely self-funded. As expenses piled up it got to the point where she would either have to quit the sport she loved and give up on her dream or her mom would have to find a way to continue to afford the mounting costs of fencing. Choosing the latter, her mom sold their house and they moved in with Eleanor’s grandmother, so she could keep competing. That selfless decision paid off as Eleanor is now training for her third Games – Paris 2024, and has developed into one of the top fencers in the World.
That was the first but not the last time in her career when she seriously contemplated giving up. More recently, she had plans to retire immediately following Tokyo as just prior to the start of the pandemic she was unsatisfied with her results, performance, and training environment – finding that the joy of fencing was slowly dwindling. In need of a change, she uprooted her life in Hamilton and moved to Calgary to train with a new coach, Alex Martin. At the time of the move, she was ranked 23rd in the World but under Martin’s guidance Eleanor flourished and in her own words began to see fencing through a “fresh set of eyes.” She went on to finish 16th in the individual foil and 5th in the team event at the Tokyo Games. Since then she has been unstoppable and continues to reach new heights. Currently Canada has 3 fencers in the top 10 in the World, the only country with this remarkable feat and Eleanor is leading the way ranked 3rd – followed by teammates Jessica Guo and Kelleigh Ryan who are ranked 7th and 9th respectively. Despite this unprecedented success, travel to international competitions is the responsibility of the athlete just as it was when she made her first national team at 15. Thankfully the past few years a private sponsor helped fund flights but unfortunately this is no longer the case and our top fencers are now left to fend for themselves and pay for hotels, flights, entries fees and sometimes the costs of bringing their coach to competitions. Eleanor gets her club membership where she trains for free in exchange for coaching the kids in the club. However, with a minimum of 10 international competitions per season it is always uncertain as to how she will be able to afford attending critical events which is why she has applied to CAN Fund. “Having support from CAN Fund would impact my ability to travel to all the competitions necessary to maintain my world ranking.”