Canadian track star Lori-Ann Muenzer, sprint gold medalist at the Athens Olympic games, says she is taking a year off from cycling because she can't attract enough funding to support herself while training.
"How do you do it as an elite athlete when there hasn't been a lot of support?" Muenzer told The Canadian Press. "As an Olympic athlete you make $16,000 gross per year. I have no RSPs. I have no portfolio. I'm 39 years old and it is really time I started thinking about it."
Muenzer plans to spend her year off working on the development of Pure Momentum Inc., a company of female motivational speakers; and promoting her biography which will be published this Spring.
She says she is not bitter at the lack of sponsorship, but believes things would be different if she rode for the US or a European country where a gold medal can put your picture on a cereal box or lead to lucrative endorsements. "You think that when you win a gold medal that your world is going to change, that you are going to have to open a couple of bank accounts," she said.
Steve Lacelle, chief operating officer of the Canadian Cycling Association, said his organisation had been lobbying Sport Canada for extra funding for elite athletes and hoped for a boost in the Spring federal budget. Muenzer's sabbatical was "a blow," he said. "She is a gold medallist. We are working at getting additional funding so we can prevent these situations from happening."
However, Muenzer expects to return, as she did after riding off a cliff in 1999 and suffering a burst appendix in 2002. "Every time I have come back smarter, faster, stronger," she said.
"In 365 days I will be certain about what the next step is. And if I'm going, I'm going full-steam forward. And all I'm going to say is, 'Look out world, here I come again."'