How to Thrive as a Paralympic Athlete

Kimberly Joines, paralympic sit skier, explains how

By Mary Ellen Green

Laying in a bed at Edmonton’s Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital just weeks after suffering a tragic snowboarding accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down, Kimberly Joines said the words that would define her future: “I never would have made it to the Olympics before, but I’m totally going now.”

The next winter, she was back on the slopes, this time in a sit ski.

Six years later she would find herself on the podium with a bronze medal around her neck at the 2006 Paralympics in Turin, Italy.

To get there she had to chart own path amongst a patchwork system of government funding, sponsorship and personal fundraising that would make even the most seasoned entrepreneur stand up and take notice.

As a member of Canadian Paralympic Alpine Ski Team (CPAST), all of Joines’ touring and competition costs are covered by Alpine Canada and CPAST sponsors. She has to cover all her personal expenses on tour, including food.

Joines has two personal sponsors, which get the head and shoulder areas on her racing gear for a minimum donation of $5,000 annually. Alpine Canada then takes a 15 per cent commission. Her head sponsor, Maritime Salient has been with her since it approached the team looking to donate some money four years ago. Her shoulder sponsor, Del Metals, comes from a personal connection – her boyfriend’s brother.

“They each have a patch on my competitive gear. I can also put them on my website and blog about them,” she said. “It would be nice to give them tax receipts, but we can’t because Alpine Canada isn’t a non-profit organization, so typically I’m able to provide them with any good press I can give them.”

As a Senior A-carded athlete with Sport Canada, Joines receives bimonthly funding to the tune of $3,000 or $18,000 each year depending on results. And her results have been solid, with her best year coming in 2008 when she won the overall title with 15 gold medal finishes on the World Cup circuit.

“It’s a consistent income,” she says. “But it only covers the bare necessities. The sponsorships vary greatly from year to year, and they may even give me nothing.”

In the lead up to the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver, the controversial Own the Podium program has played a huge part in Joines’ preparations.

“Own the Podium gave us a lot of support. The program is quite intricately involved in our sport because they base their support on the potential to win medals, and our team has the potential to win a whole lot of medals,” she says.

The 15 targeted athletes on the Para Alpine team have benefited from $1,281,103 in funding through Own the Podium. From that money, they’ve received an extra coach, a nutritionist and guest speakers.

Joines fills in the rest of her budget with donations of goods and services from her extremely supportive local community. She learned quickly about the generosity of her hometown when she bought a dilapidated miner’s shack as her home in Rossland B.C. It needed a considerable amount of work in order for her to live and move around comfortably. The community came to her aid, providing the time, services and materials required to finish the job.

“Over the course of the project we ended up acquiring about $90,000 in sponsorship,” she says.

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