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Updated: Wed, 19 Mar 2014 22:29:59 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Paralympic athletes left out of medal bonuses



Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press

Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press

Along with the cheers, Canadian medallists returning from the Olympics in Sochi were also greeted with something else — cold hard cash.

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) paid gold medallists $20,000, silver medallists $15,000 and bronze medallist $10,000.

Compare that with Canadian athletes who medalled at the Paralympics — they are returning home to cheers, but won't receive a cent for their accomplishments in Sochi.

Brian McKeever fell early in the final of the one-kilometre cross-country ski race at the Paralympics, but the fall wasn't the end of his race.

He got up and fought back to snag the gold medal.

The win helped McKeever on his way to Canadian Paralympic history. He won three golds at the Sochi Games, but unlike Canada's Olympians there was no cheque waiting for him when he got home. 

Paralympian weighs in

McKeever said getting a cash bonus would have been nice.

"Personal gain is always in the back of your mind — just to pay the mortgage and pay for food and stuff like that — but it's certainly not why we compete," he said. 

The bonuses paid to Olympians come from the COC, which is 98 per cent funded by the private sector.

"Funding provided to athletes and coaches that medal is from our corporate partners," said COC spokesperson Jane Almeida.

She also noted the COC is a separate organization from the Paralympic committee.

"The Paralympic committee doesn't have the same resources and everything overall it is just smaller," said McKeever.

Spokesperson Alison Korn said the Canadian Paralympic Committee is working towards providing medal bonus incentives, but does not have the funding resources available right now.

Fund set up

A small Calgary company is trying to change that.

"These guys receive bonuses and these guys don't — there is something wrong here," said Robb Price, who runs the website Deliver Good. 

It matches charitable donors with worthy causes. He put some money into a fund to give small bonuses to Paralympic medallists and he is hoping others follow his lead.

"We started a fund on gofundme.com/WeAreEqual for everyone else. Hopefully some companies can step up and some individuals and increase these bonuses," said Price.

Federal funding

Canadian women's hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser also tweeted her support for the initiative this week.

While Wickenheiser mentions Prime Minister Stephen Harper in her tweet, Minister of State for Sport Bal Gosal said the federal government is not behind the bonuses.

"The medal bonuses in question are an initiative provided solely by the COC to Olympians independent from government funds," he said in an email.

Gosal said the government treats both Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes equally through Athletes Assistance Program funding.

"All Canadian Olympic and Paralympic medallists receive an additional "excellence" allowance of $500 a month from the Athletes Assistance Program," he said.

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