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Olympic hopeful looks to continue career through unique fundraiser
A pioneer in a sport set to be introduced in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo hopes to raise the money she needs to continue her journey through an artistic fundraiser next week in Calgary.
Hailey Daniels, 27, has been fighting to have women be alllowed to compete in canoeing in the Olympics for the past few games and she says it's been a battle from the start.
"Our sport was in the exact same situation as women’s skijumpers where the men were the only ones in the Olympics but the women were not. So, we had to go through a gender equality appeal and just try to have our sport be Olympic."
Last year, officials declared that the division would be added to the sport, but not until the Tokyo Games in 2020.
Daniels says her event is whitewater canoeing and it's quite a challenge.
"It’s slalom canoeing where we go through anywhere from 18 to 23 gates on a whitewater course. If you touch a gate, it’s a two-second penalty, if you miss a gate it’s a 50 second penalty, so you are racing yourself and the time, but you really don’t want to hit a gate."
Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges Daniels has found hasn't been on the course at all; it's about her finances.
"I canoe because I love it. It’s my passion and I’m starting to be very good at it and it costs me a lot of money to do that. My expenses alone in the year are close to $50,000 each year and that doesn’t allow me to have any wiggle room if I want to have any assets or purchase anything for myself."
She says that when she signed up to be an athlete, she was told about what she needed to do to qualify but was left in the dark about how to support her career financially.
"So, I’ve had to be really innovative in my efforts, I’ve taught vegan cooking classes, I came out with a vegan cookbook, and a week today, we are coming out with an event called ‘It Takes a Village’."
'It Takes a Village' is a special event where people can join Daniels for a great meal featuring lots of international fare such as Brazilian barbecue and perogies from Poland. After the meal, guests are then treated to a live auction of some paddles that have been painted by a number of local artists.
"I have talked with artists that are in my life, so my brother, my dad, other people that I’ve grown up with, other women canoeists that I paddle with, professors have all stepped up to the plate and agreed to paint paddles. They are actual paddles that you can go on the river or lake with and they’ve put their own creative thought into it and have painted these pieces of art. I’m so inspired by them. They keep on rolling in and I’m just elated, they are so beautiful."
The event is taking place next week at Crew Club Athletics, a rowing-themed gym that was opened by Olympic gold-medal rower Bruce Robertson.
Robertson, who won the gold medal in men's eights in Barcelona, says that Daniels has done alot to help progress her sport.
"To go to the Olympics is very hard to do, to win there is very hard to do, but I admire her well-roundedness in terms of her fighting for women and for that sport specifically."
Robertson says that his venue is the perfect place to hold the event and is happy to help because fundraising is so important for athletes.
"I think it’s pretty important. I benefitted in a less formal way than fundraising but a very similar way; individuals, parents of course. Thank you mom and dad for that support; every athlete needs that parental support first and foremost."
Daniels says that she hopes her fundraiser can help leave a lasting legacy.
"I hope at some point, if I get there, that I can give back to another athlete as well and help them on their journey. That’s a goal of mine, post-athletic career."
It Takes a Village is on Wednesday, January 17 at 6:00 p.m. at Crew Club Athletics, 230 508 24 Avenue S.W.
(With files from Kevin Fleming)