‘Most of us are broke’: Canadian sprint star lifts the lid on athlete finances

Canadian sprinter Nick Wammes has described the financial challenges facing track sprint cyclists, even as someone performing at the highest levels of the sport.

‘Most athletes competing for Canada at the international level are broke,’ he reveals in a video posted on his YouTube channel.

‘You’re going to start seeing more of your favourite Olympians as the hype around the (Paris 2024) games builds,’ he says. ‘It’s a very common misconception that all these athletes are very well taken care of, very well paid. I’m here to say that’s simply not the case.’

why Canadian Olympians are broke

Most Canadian athletes rely heavily on funding from national and regional government sources, he explains. Wammes himself receives just over US$ 15,000 per year from Sport Canada, plus an additional US$ 5,000 from his Ontario province. He also received a US$ 10,000 ‘development card’ to support him through the early years of his career.

It doesn’t add up to a lot for a full-time athlete representing his country on the biggest stage.

But it’s significantly less than the US$ 50,000 which the lowest-ranked Japanese professional (male) keirin competitor can expect to earn annually.

And yet, Wammes continues: ‘A lot of athletes, including myself, still need to pay their own way to get to competitions, and cover some training expenses.’ For example, Wammes must pay an additional ‘project fee’ for every race he attends.

DerbyWheel’s forecasted prize money would be revolutionary for most current and potential future Olympians. Documents posted online in 2023 proposed that the average earnings for a rider in the top ‘Special’ class would be US$ 10,000 per weekend.

And on The Piste Take podcast, it was observed that ‘even in (DerbyWheel’s) B Class, you can essentially make in a weekend what a (British Cycling) Academy wage was in a year.’

If DerbyWheel can establish itself as a sustainable global series, it stands to change the lives of literally hundreds of eager amateurs outside national development programmes – and most of those on programmes, too.