In 2019 at their last chance Olympic qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Games an Olympic berth for the Canadian Women’s Field Hockey Team came down to a shootout. It was Canada vs Ireland playing in Ireland. The Irish ranked 8th in the world and Canada 15th, one game, the winner goes to the Olympics. At the end of regulation, it was 0-0. A shootout would determine their fate, Canada was up 3-1 in penalty shots until the Irish goaltender shut them down. Utter heartbreak and devastation the Canadians lost 4-3 and just like that their Olympic dream was crushed.
They now look to Paris 2024 and should they qualify, it would be 32 years in the making, the first time since Barcelona 1992. This resilient group of women has never been so close yet ironically lacking so much support. Last week they competed in the FIH Hockey Women’s World Cup having qualified earlier this year a feat the program had not accomplished since 1994. However, for a team that is predominantly self-funded they weren’t even sure if they would be able to afford to attend and like so many times before they had to focus on fundraising to ensure they could. Their team has received $0 since 2016 from Own the Podium, at times the roster is composed of those who can afford the team levy versus the best suited and for their entire national team careers it has been a constant financial struggle to represent Canada on the world stage.
Of the 11 players who have applied to CAN Fund the majority work part-time to supplement their income which means less hours to recover, less time for quality training and more time on their feet – contrary to their international counterparts like European teams who pay their players with stipends. Being a national team athlete is a full-time job and these women are literally working overtime, living pay cheque to pay cheque every single day to wear the maple leaf. Imagine paying out of pocket and going into debt to attend a work conference, company offsite or take part in meetings in other cities for an organization that you belong to. Their commitment is unwavering.
Captain Natalie Sourisseau is in school, preparing for MCATs and coaches on the side, Karli Johansen started dog walking, Elise Wong works for communications start up and lives with her grandmother who she is also the primary caregiver, Amanda Woodcroft teaches when her competitive schedule allows, Alexis De Armond gardens part-time while also living with the daily challenges of life as an elite athlete and type 1 diabetic, Sara McManus works part-time at a coffee shop and spin studio and for Marcia LaPlante finances have never been easy.
What they have overcome as a team under a financially strained program is simply incredible. These women are worthy of being supported, of being believed in and of the opportunity to pursue their passion wholeheartedly without financial constraint. After coming so agonizingly close in 2019, they are on a mission to Paris and have applied to CAN Fund to help them on their journey.