Crowdfunding your way to an Olympic medal

Crowdfunding your way to an Olympic medal

LiQ_Mag_Dec_2014This article first appeared in the December 2014 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.

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The Kim Lamarre Interview

By Kathleen Keller

Kim Lamarre is a Canadian freeskier from Lac-Beauport in Québec. This small town, 25 kilometers north from downtown Québec City, is also home to Le Relais ski centre where Lamarre, beginning at the age of two, spent much of her free time skiing.

According to her website, “Skiing brought a feeling of freedom to her life. Every day, out on snow, was a fun and unpredictable adventure.” Lamarre never joined an alpine or mogul ski club, enjoying the freedom of not being “restricted” on the mountain. When Lamarre was seven, she discovered snowboarding and continued to practice both snow sports.

At the age of thirteen, Lamarre slid her first rail and she was hooked. Skiing runs in the family; Lamarre’s grandmother, Ginette Séguin, represented Canada at the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Winter Olympics where she placed 18th in the slalom, 33rd in downhill, and 36th in giant slalom.

It was with freeskiing, a subset of freestyle skiing that started in the late 1990s, that Lamarre felt the greatest connection. Like snowboarding, this form of skiing involves jumps, tricks using rails, boxes, jibs, and other terrain park features.

It was in 2011, the year Lamarre joined the Canadian National Slopestyle team, that the International Olympic Committee announced the addition of two new freestyle events to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi: the men’s and women’s ski halfpipe and slopestyle.

Kim_Lamarre_Bronze_webSince 2005, Lamarre has appeared in major ski magazines such as FreeskierSBC Skier, and Powder as well as in various ski movies and web videos. Lamarre received a competitive breakthrough in 2008 when she came in second at the US Freeskiing Open slopestyle.

Although she injured herself during the 2009 Winter X Games, by 2011, she was back in form and won her first X Games medal.  Lamarre grew stronger after her first major injury thanks to her dedication and hard work, qualities that would serve her well during another challenging event.

In May 2013, Lamarre received a decisive phone call from her coach at Freestyle Canada.  This call would drastically alter her plans for the upcoming year and threaten her hopes of becoming an Olympian. “You’re no longer on our list,” she was told.

It was that simple.

As a result of two back-to-back knee surgeries which had kept Lamarre off skis for almost two seasons, the coaches had no choice but to cut her from the team, and she was left with no funding for training expenses.  “They were narrowing down the team to concentrate on Olympic hopefuls, and simply could not justify giving money to an athlete who had no results for that year,” she explained. “I was not only cut from the A Team; I was not on the B team either.”

Lamarre was on no team, and the Sochi 2014 Olympics were coming fast.

For Lamarre, getting funding meant having many expenses covered, such as competition entry fees, physiotherapy, coaching, housing and living costs. These expenses can cost an athlete thousands of dollars per year.  And since aspiring Olympic athletes need to train several hours per day, a fully dedicated athlete usually does not have time for a steady job. Additionally, slopestyle skiers like Lamarre must relocate every year to optimal skiing areas to have access to a maximum of training time.  This also costs money. In fact, Lamarre was preparing to leave for Breckenridge, Colorado, when Life in Québec spoke to her earlier this October.

When Lamarre was cut from the team, she was determined to succeed with or without the funding, and began to pay the costs of preparation for Sochi out of her own pocket.  It was financially tight, but doable.  However, the last straw came when her car was attacked by a bear in the fall of 2013 and needed extensive repairs. “Expenses were accumulating and it was causing me a lot of anxiety,” she recalls. “I was sitting in the living room with some friends one night and they told me about crowdfunding.”

This is when Lamarre decided to pave her own road to Sochi.  In December 2013, she set up the page and started circulating it on social networks. Before leaving for Sochi, she had exceeded her goal of collecting $15,000.  “At first, I felt a little uncomfortable about asking friends and family for help,” she explains. But in the end, she says she knew they did it to encourage her and she was touched by their support.

On February 11, 2014, Lamarre skied one of the best performances of her life. She took the world by surprise by scoring an 85 after her second run, and earned an Olympic bronze medal.

Lamarre says her rough road to Sochi was a “life experience,” but she stays focused on the fact that she is in a much better mindset this year. “This year, all I have to think about is skiing,” she says. “All my efforts are concentrated on my sport. I’m in a much better situation at this time of the year than I was last year. ”

Even though Lamarre is clearly a top performer under pressure, financial stress is not something she would wish upon any athlete.  And yet, this type of situation where athletes have to pay their own expenses is not uncommon in various amateur sports, especially for women.  For example, in women’s rugby, any 15s player participating in a tour with Team Canada must “pay to play.”

The silver medalists who represented Team Canada in the Women’s Rugby World Cup in France last summer spent over $10,000 to reach their goal.

LiQ_Mag_Abonnez-vousThat Lamarre was able to fight through this challenge and come out of it with a place on the podium is a testament to her determination and focus.  And she is not done yet.  She is back on the Freestyle Canada team, and has her sight set on the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

She did it once all on her own, who’s to say what she’ll do next time?

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About Author

Kathleen Keller

Kathleen Keller hails from Quebec City, is a graduate in English Literature, a translator, and an ardent writer. As much as she loves language and literature, she is above all else a passionate rugby player. Having represented her city, province, and country in many leagues and events, Kathleen now has her eyes set on getting a spot in Canada’s senior women’s team for the 2017 World Cup.

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